DAVAO CITY – An embarrassment to Tagumenyos.

This was how an anti-crime head described the political leaders’ reactions on the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that implicated former Tagum city mayor Rey Uy behind numerous summary killings.

Uy has accused his political opponents for coercing and paying the sources interviewed by the HRW in order to thwart his comeback for the mayoralty position in 2016.  The matter generated a response from current Mayor Alan Rellon.

But for Cesar Cuntapay, a retired police officer and now appointed as the city’s peace and order board, the political mudslinging is an embarrassment for Tagum City.

“They are destroying the reputation of each other. They are wasting time. It will not improve the plight of our fellowmen,” he said in an interview with Radyo ni Juan Tagum.

Cuntapay said the report should have prompted officials to get their acts together.

“An investigation has come up not from the people of Tagum but from an external source. That’s an insult to Tagumenyos, no one is brave enough to face this concern,” said Cuntapay.

He said the HRW report sent a chilling message to the public.

“There has been police, a judge, and a media who have been killed. No one’s exempted. They will feel no one can live peacefully here in Tagum,” he said.

The HRW gathered testimonies from witnesses, former police officers and former death squad members who pinned local officials for supporting the death squad.

The testimonies said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and local officials provided the death squad with a list of targets including petty criminals and youth delinquents. As one death squad member said, the police will be tipped to stay clear from areas where they will conduct their modus operandi.

A local government staff, however, had denied over a television interview that the local government is behind the list of targets for summary killings.

Mayor Rellon acknowledged the report has put the city in the international spotlight and said this should challenge authorities to investigate the matter.

“If they (the death squads) still exist, let us make efforts to dismantle them.  I hope these witnesses would come out and not be afraid, and hopefully the authorities can now conduct formal investigation,” the mayor said.

Davao del Norte Police Director Superintendent Cadingan said they would conduct an investigation.

Cuntapay, however, did not share the optimism of Rellon.

“Ang takbo ng hustisya, marami namang kolor yan (There are many hues on the course of justice),” Cuntapay said. “There is the color of those who are disenfranchised, and those who are in authority. We cannot condemn this. It will take time to resolve this, especially the attitude of those who did not act when people needed them before, nobody dared.”

He minced no words to criticize Rellon saying that as a former councilor and vice mayor, Rellon did not call for the investigation of the killings.  Rellon was a former partymate of Uy but bolted out as he sought the mayoralty in 2013, running against Uy’s son.

Cuntapay was Rellon’s running mate. He was then head of the anti-corruption group called United Taxpayers Against Crime (UTAC) and a barangay human rights advocacy officer under the Commission on Human Rights.

The Davao del Norte Press Club, who earlier condemned the killing of radio commentator Rogelio Butalid by the Tagum death squad, had not aired their position on the report.

One journalist who requested anonymity told Radyo ni Juan that the HRW report showed that the search for justice is still alive.

“With this report coming out based on testimonies, it shows there is development, that justice is not dead. We from media hope that it is time to correct mistakes from the past and all the wrong notions. Let the truth come out,” the journalist said.

She also challenged authorities to act now.

“It is better that the authorities in Tagum, having seen many reports, can do something to bring this to closure, because many innocent lives have been sacrificed. This is the right time to let the truth come out,” she said. (davaotoday.com)

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