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This white paper is written to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the politico-social subject covered, in the run up to the May 2013 synchronized local and national elections. It is culled from reports from the Commission on Audit (COA), cables from the US Department of State (US Embassy in Manila) and the US Central Intelligence Agency. Condensed from the book “Tapestry of Philippine Politics,” the following excerpts attempts to record all forms of machinations and actions through which the administration of MAYOR TOMAS OSMENA employs violent, extra-constitutional measures to curb criminality, especially in forming death squads, adopting a veiled-fist policy that trampled human rights and human dignity, and spending government funds to discreetly support such policy.
The work of death squads (vigilantes) and special police units deployed to completely neutralize or terminate (with extreme prejudice) known criminals under the past administration’s anti-crime policy produced only little, if not limited, results. It didn’t bring the peace and order that the 1 former mayor so desired . Somehow it succeeded in driving fear into the hearts of his political adversaries and critics – that he had killer-instincts and that he is capable of orchestrating murder under the pretext of crime prevention against anyone that stands his way. The ex-mayor’s bloody anti-crime formula has emerged as a showcase of his shadowy fiscal policy, re-routing government monies2 from the city mayor’s so-called “intelligence fund” to certain commodity traders/suppliers at the Carbon public market who served as conduit to the financial rewards he had given to death squads and rabidly anti-crime but trigger-happy police officers. The formation of special units to neutralize criminals (robbers and street muggers) and the mayor’s vigilante-murder solution played down into the hands of local drug ringleaders who began killing the meta-amphetamine hydrochloride couriers of their rivals and blamed the killings on police secret marshals and dead squad gunmen.
Up to 165 criminals had been summarily executed3 in and around the city of Cebu since the mayor unleashed his scorched-earth policy against crime, human rights groups and police say, adding that the figure could not be independently confirmed. Most of these extra-judicial killings had been attributed to self-styled, independent vigilantes and special police assets and or police officers who were encouraged to do so by the city administration.
The rash of summary executions of criminals began on December 22, 2004 within days after the mayor announced the formation of special Hunter units to carry out his orders to stamp out crime as quickly as possible. The first 14 victims, who were slain gangland-style between December 2004 and May 2005, were attributed to the mayor’s pronouncement against criminals. Up to 20 other suspected robbers and muggers, who were killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen who drive by and launch attacks execution-style between June 2005 and January 2006, were blamed on other vigilante groups that heeded the mayor’s call for a tough solution against criminals. In-between February 2006 and April 2008, the other 131 fatalities stemmed from violent turf wars between drug ring leaders in different villages inside and outside of the city.
How Much Were Spent to Kill Criminals?
City treasury check issuances to 14 traders and suppliers at the Carbon public market turned out to be concrete leads to the use of public funds for vigilantes and dead squads who worked at the heck and call of the chief city executive, says a confidential report4 by the Commission on Audit in 2006. The money trail appeared to be payments for commodities and/or supplied procured from traders but no delivery receipts and/or formal billing information were available to justify the expenditures, the COA findings disclose. Up to seven checks were written to duly named traders, at P22,000 or $400 each, for a total of P154,000, says senior City Hall staff who had access to the COA report. The other six checks were for another P154,000 in amounts ranging from P11,000 to P19,250. The peso-dollar exchange at that time was 55 to one. Credit memos amounting to P296,485 were issued to three (3) traders in the Carbon market, who acted as money conduits to police officers and militiamen who were hired to carry out the executions of petty criminals, gang-land style.
There was direct order by the mayor of Cebu to neutralize criminals, either as individuals or groups, with extreme prejudice. Up to 24 police officers who belonged to the “HUNTER SQUADS” special anti-crime unit the mayor had formed were later cleared of involvement in the rash of killings over lack of evidence implicating them to the execution-style murders (See attached US Embassy report to US State Department). But one officer, SPO1 Adonis Dumpit, was arrested and had been charged on suspicion of involvement with the vigilantes. He had denied the allegation. The bank accounts of 14 Carbon market traders somehow showed check issuances that wound up to 14 suspected vigilante killers5, according to financial trail trackers of the Central Bank of the Philippines. Among the suspected vigilantes are two former police officers, six former Philippine Army soldiers, and six former members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, which served alongside the Philippine Marines and the army in the counterinsurgency campaigns against the New People’s Army. A copy of the US Embassy diplomatic cable, sent January 2006 by US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone Jr., outlined the alleged involvement of the former Cebu City mayor to the gangland-style killings6 of criminals.
Wiki Leaks Note: This is the full text, non-redacted copy of the cable sent to US Department of State, Washington DC.
CONFIDENTIAL SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000129 SUBJECT: CEBU MAYOR IMPLICATED IN SERIES OF VIGILANTESTYLE KILLINGS REF: A. 04 MANILA 04251 ¶B. 03 MANILA 6557
Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) Source Category: A1 Limited distribution
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: There have been 14 vigilante-style killings recently in Cebu. Critics have implicated Cebu Mayor Tommy Osmena in the slayings based on his decision to create a special police squad to hunt down criminals. Classified A1/A2 reports say public monies from the mayor’s intelligence funds had been spent as reward to police officers and other duly accredited individuals who had neutralized known criminals. Cardinal Vidal, local congressmen, Cebu's Vice Mayor, and human rights groups have raised public concerns about the killings. In pressing his anti-crime fight in such extra-judicial directions, Osmena seems to be modelling himself after Rodrigo Duterte, the notorious mayor of Davao City, where there have been over 60 vigilantestyle killings in the past year. END SUMMARY. ---------------------Killings in Cebu ---------------------¶2. (U) There have been 14 vigilante-style killings recently in Cebu City. The killings began on December 22 when two hooded men on a motorcycle shot dead a local criminal figure in a drive by shooting. Four more men, each suspected by police of involvement in criminal activity, were gunned down in separate drive by shootings the next day; two of them were at work, two were asleep. The pattern continued on December 27 when a lone gunman allegedly shot to death three suspected criminals. The killings continued on December 29 when five more suspected criminals were killed. On December 30, a garbage collector suspected of involvement in petty drug dealing was also gunned down. In several of the cases mentioned above, the victims' body was reportedly marked with a sign stating, "I am a thief." Besides sharing a similar checkered past, each of the victims reportedly had spent time in Cebu's criminal detention center. ¶3. (U) Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Edgar Aglipay has ordered an investigation into the string of killings. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also initiated its own investigation. -------------------------------Cebu Mayor Implicated -------------------------------¶4. (SBU) Critics have implicated Cebu Mayor Tommy Osmena in the slayings based on recent statements he has made. Immediately before the killings began, Mayor Osmena announced the formation of a special 24-member police squad tasked "to suppress and prevent crimes" on December 21. Osmena noted: "We have to be more aggressive. It (the team) will seek and destroy criminal types of activity." During his press briefing, Osmena noted that USD 200-400 bounties will go to police officials who "permanently disable or neutralize" criminals. Osmena said the team would be called the "Hunter" squad. The press later reported that Chief Inspector Arnel Banzon of Cebu's PNP SWAT team would supervise two 12-person groups led by SPO4 Rex Campos and SPO1 Serafin Asingjo.
State auditors from COA reported 308,000 PHP in disbursements to 14 Carbon market traders whose bank accounts served as conduits to check issuances of 200 – 400 USD for 16 police officers and 14 civilians, mostly former army soldiers and paramilitias (See Reftels US Central Intelligence Agency).
¶5. (U) Cebu City Police Chief Melvin Gayotin, in recent remarks, strongly supported the creation of the team, clarifying that it would not practice "vigilante justice," but rather help to "find and arrest criminals." Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on December 24 applauded Osmena's efforts to combat crime in the city. When he was recently accused of sponsoring the summary killings, Osmena replied, "I am not behind it. But I will say I inspired it. I don't deny that." ---------------------------------Protests Against Killings ---------------------------------¶6. (C) Leading public figures have expressed concern about the killings. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu admonished Osmena and appealed to the new anti-crime unit to arrest suspects and not kill them, noting, "I cannot understand how we can terminate the lives of men without the just process we are used to." Vidal, who campaigned against the infamous "sparrow" (New People's Army) death squads in the 1980s in Davao City, also expressed his deep concern over the violent killings during a January 7 meeting with Dep Polcouns. Raul del Mar, an influential Cebu Congressman, publicly echoed Vidal's concerns. Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu City's 1st District also protested, commenting that: "the ends never justify the means." Osmena's Vice-Mayor Michael Rama also came out against the vigilante-style killings. Many Philippine human rights groups also protested the killings, urging the national government to investigate the situation fully. -----------------COMMENT -----------------¶7. (C) In pressing his anti-crime fight in such extra-judicial directions, Osmena seems to be modeling himself after the notorious Mayor Duterte of Davao City (see Reftels). Duterte is clearly behind a group called the "Davao Death Squad," which has been implicated in over 60 vigilante-style killings in the past year. We are not sure why Osmena is advocating such extreme measures. The crime rate in Cebu has gone up, but not dramatically so. Consular Representative in Cebu told Poloff that he thought that most Cebuanos supported Osmena on the issue, however, as they see crime as a serious problem. Hopefully, the investigation into the situation ordered by PNP Director General Aglipay will end the rash of killings. Unfortunately, there have been similar investigations in Davao in the past, but to no avail. Ricciardone, Francis
(Edited and reformatted by Andres for ease of reading. This is a classified US Department of State information.)
Transmitted B. 03 MANILA 6557 Authorization 000129
Justice and Peace Report (2008): “Extrajudicial Killings Accomplish Nothing,” Annual Report of the Social Action Committee, Archdiocese of Cebu, pp 16-24;
COA (2006): “Confidential Reports to the Chief National Audit Commissioner,” outlining the use of public funds in payments for 14 Carbon market suppliers that did not submit proper documentation and disallowed by auditors;
RECOM (2009): Confidential report to the Police Director General, mentioning the death count of 165 individuals arising from gangland-style executions in and around Cebu City;
COA Report (2006), op cit;
Central Bank (2007): “The Money Trail of Vigilante Groups and their Patrons,” inclusive of details in an interagency report to President Gloria Arroyo, filed alongside the Department of Finance and the Department of Interior and Local Government;
Wiki Leaks (2011): A PDF copy of the US Department of State cable report to Washington, D.C., dated January 2006, implicating the mayor of Cebu to summary executions of suspected criminals;
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