In war vs youth offenders, Duterte reaches for the shotgun

Jul. 13, 2007

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has created an “Anti-Hoodlum Unit” that will go after gang members and abusive cabbies. He said the unit can shoot these “embarrassments to the city” with shotguns if necessary. “I warn you,” he said last week. “You bring out the worse in me.” He also warned child advocates to get out of his way and to stop pampering juvenile delinquents.

By Cheryll D. Fiel
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — To Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a good way to deal with juvenile delinquents, even taxi drivers who overcharge passengers, is shoot them with a shotgun.

In a move that raised yet again concerns about human rights and due process in the city, Duterte, who is notorious for his uncompromising ways and tough rhetoric on crime, announced that he has created the Anti-Hoodlum Unit, a police unit that is charged with dealing with street gangs, youth offenders and those who, according to him, bring shame to the city.

“The law says if you get caught, you minors will spend a night in jail,” Duterte said in his television program last week. And if jail doesn’t work, there’s always the shotgun.

Members of the unit, the mayor announced last week, will be given shotguns — they can shoot offenders in the leg, if necessary. Duterte said he will not allow the use of M-16 rifles because, according to him, these are “lethal and dangerous.”

He also warned taxi drivers who overcharge, who refuse passengers, or who force passengers out of the taxi if they refuse to pay the driver’s price. These drivers, many of them at the Davao International Aiport, are creating headaches for the city, Duterte said. He added it’s about time these drivers are taught a lesson because they are an embarrassment to the city.

He advised the public to call 911, the cityt’s hotline, to report incidents of abuses by drivers and gang activities.

The mayor’s move came a couple of weeks after he promised, during his oath-taking, to continue his war against crime. The city has gained both fame and notoriety because of the mayor’s approach to crime. On one hand, his administration is credited for keeping the peace, regardless of his repeated statements that tend to contradict that — statements that depict the city as crawling with delinquents and criminals and that the only recourse is his iron hand. As a result, the city has been recognized for being orderly and safe, particularly for tourists.

On the other hand, Duterte’s administration has likewise been blamed for the series of extrajudicial killings, often attributed to the so-called Davao Death Squad, that victimize mainly young people. The mayor has made public countless times his support of the killings, regardless of the condemnation by human-rights groups and child advocates, who decry the breakdown of due process in a city ruled by a former city prosecutor. Many of the victims had not been acquitted in a court of law; some of them were murdered as soon as they stepped out of police stations.

In his television program last Sunday, Duterte warned that he would not go soft on youth offenders, many of whom, he said, are exploited by criminal syndicates, such as the Akyat Bahay Gang that uses small children to break into homes. “I warn you,” he said. “You bring out the worse in me.”

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