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The Philippines: Duerte accused of hundreds of murders

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Duerte Rodrigo Roa, born in 1945, in May of 2016  won the presidential elections in the Philippines after a campaign by the exalted tones in which he spent its reputation of strong and unstoppable man, built from 1988 onwards occupying the chair of the Mayor of Davao, Capital the large island of Mindanao, in the southern archipelago.

Today, the statements released by a former death squad member, in front of the legislative assembly of the Senate, called Duerte into question as the inspirer and instigator of hundreds of killings during the years when he held the post of First Citizen of Davao.

Came to power with 39% of the votes, Duerte never rejected the nicknames that the press had attributed to him: Executioner, Punisher and other American B movie titles were obviously referring to the brutal and arbitrary methods with which the former mayor Duerte led his personal battle against corruption and drugs. On several occasions the local and international organizations for human rights expressed dismay and concern for the hundreds of extrajudicial executions carried out in the city of Davao during the long years of his government, whose victims were pusher, drug users, but also simple citizens.

Despite criticisms came even from the Vatican, the Filipinos, deeply Catholic, decided to grant their trust in Duerte, whose workhorse during the election campaign was the promise to kill 100,000 drug dealers and criminals in the first six months of Presidency. Five months after his elections, the 100,000 goal is still far away but organizations for Human Rights denounced the killing of about 3000 people and a substantial withdrawal of the state of law in large areas of the country. The police, which now seems to enjoy almost total impunity, has actually confirmed these figures.

The popularity of Duerte, during these five months of blood and violence, continued to grow, waterproof to complaints from NGOs and the many testimonies that prove the killing of civilians with clean records, including children, in the course of police operations.

Today, however, the testimony given before the Senate by Edgar Matobato, former member of a Davao death  squadron, opens even more disturbing scenarios and puts the president Duerte in an extremely awkward position.

The Lambada Boys, as the group of hit men was called, of which Matobato, 57 and fifty murders on his record, was member, would be responsible for hundreds of targeted killings, perpetrated in Davao in the last decades. The witness, called to speak in front of the gathered Senate by Senator Leila de Lima, former director of the Committee for Human Rights of the Philippines, said that Duerte was the instigator of these executions, whose victims were many local criminals and political opponents of the Mayor Duerte. Matobato spoke of bodies thrown to the crocodiles, torn bellies to prevent the appearance of the bodies buried in the sea and other brutalities attributable to orders came directly from Duerte, whose image appears now closer to that of a gangster then to that of a successful politician.

Leila de Lima, a great opponent of President and, according Matobato, missed target in 2009, when the hitmen team failed to complete her murder, will use the testimony to impeach Duerte and to create a logical and symbolic link between the violence that bloodied the city of Davao during his tenure, between 1988 and 2013, and today’s suspension of basic human rights, the basis of the war of the President to eradicate drug trafficking and exterminate the members of the small crime linked to the world of drug dealing.

Duerte, for now, did not answer the charges, but his spokesman have already begun to erect a defensive wall, questioning the credibility of Matobato and claiming that de Lima, who will soon have to appear before a parliamentary committee of inquiry, is embroiled in illicit activities related to drug trafficking.

The battle moves, therefore, in the open field and there are many who fear that a Duerte wounded, but still strong of popular support, could react in a disorderly way, dragging the country with him in a new era of violence and suspension of rights.


Luca Marchesini

Luca Marchesini
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