Wednesday, December 02, 2009

House Speaker to human rights groups: 'Don't forget Davao killings too'

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - While the entire world is watching anxiously the unfolding events related to the Maguindanao massacre that resulted in the killings of 57 people, including at least 30 journalsists, Speaker Prospero Nograles expressed optimism the government and the international and local human rights watchdogs would not lose attention of the equally atrocious summary executions committed in Davao City.

“The extent of atrocity that took place in Maguindanao is really mind-boggling and I really pray that all those responsible will pay for this unimaginable act of violence. We should never forget what happened in Maguindanao,” Nograles, a former human rights lawyer, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“However, we should not also forget equally atrocious acts elsewhere, including the series of executions in Davao City, two victims of which are also members of the media. We should not forget that like in Maguindanao, the more than a thousand people who were murdered in cold-blood are unarmed citizens who have every right to demand for justice,” he added.

Nograles noted that it's been nearly three years since the Christmas-eve assassination of Davao City radio commentator Ferdie “Batman” Lintuan but the people responsible for his death are still unidentified. The same is the case with another broadcaster Juan Pala who was gunned down near his residence in Davao City in 2003.

"In the Maguindanao massacre, at least our investigators are making good progress in identifying the culprits but in the cases of Lintuan and Pala, their cases remain in limbo up to this time. What is even more unfortunate is that what happened to them is now slowly being forgotten,” Nograles said.

Nograles said that he was impressed with the courage demonstrated by the Commission on Human Rights headed by lawyer Leila de Lima and international human rights watchdogs such as the International Human Rights Watch and the United Nations in its effort to unmask the people behind the Davao Death Squad which is reportedly responsible for the executions in Davao City. However, Nograles expressed fear that their investigation might be eclipsed by what happened in Maguindanao.

“The incomprehensible display of brutality in Maguindanao can possibly happen in Davao City if we cannot stop the DDS and the people behind this group. They are equally cold-blooded and as brutal as those who went on a murderous rampage in Maguindanao,” said Nograles days after filing his Certificate of Candidacy as mayoralty candidate in Davao City to challenge the long reign of the Duterte family.

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