PNoy can be held liable for Tagum City killing cases

By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) – http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/05/28/1328269/pnoy-can-be-held-liable-tagum-city-killing-cases

28 May 2014

MANILA, Philippines – A human rights lawyer said on Wednesday that President Benigno Aquino III may be held criminally liable if he does not act on the several hundred extra-judicial killings in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

In a statement, rights lawyer and University of the Philippine College of Law professor Harry Roque Jr. said Aquino could be held liable under the 2009 law passed during the Arroyo administration for failing to address the extrajudicial killings in the province.

“The International Humanitarian Law Act punishes superiors who fail to take all necessary and reasonable measures within their power to prevent or repress such killings or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution,” Roque said.

Roque, a professor of international law and constitutional law at UP, was referring to Republic Act 9851, which was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 11,2009.

He said that under the IHL Act, a sitting President may no longer raise presidential immunity from suit as a defense.

“The law is clear. Official capacity as a head of state or government shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this Act,” Roque said, quoting the law.
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In a 71-page report it released last week, Human Rights Watch detailed the involvement of local government officials – including Tagum City’s former mayor, Rey “Chiong” Uy – and police officers in the extrajudicial killings through the so-called “Tagum City Death Squad” of alleged drug dealers, petty criminals, street children, and others, including a journalist, over the past decade.

Since 1998, when he was first elected Tagum City’s mayor, Uy, along with close aides and city police officers, hired, equipped, and paid for an operation that at its height consisted of 14 hit men and accomplices, according to HRW report.

It added that many of these hired killers were on the city government payroll with the civil security unit, a city hall bureau tasked with traffic management and providing security in markets and schools.

HRW, in the report “‘One Shot to the Head’: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines,”, documented 298 killings between January 2007 and March 2013 that had been attributed to the death squad and for which no one has been prosecuted.

Roque said the killings, which targeted a certain class of citizens, had been large-scale and systematic, and its perpetrators and the brains behind them may be charged for crime against humanity under the IHL Act.

“President Aquino cannot simply ignore it or sweep it under the rug. The law requires him to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, failing which he may be prosecuted under the principle of superior responsibility, he being Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive at the same time,” he noted.

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Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines

“One Shot to the Head”

May 21, 2014

The 71-page report details the involvement of local government officials – including Tagum City’s former mayor, Rey “Chiong” Uy – and police officers in the extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers, petty criminals, street children, and others over the past decade. The report draws heavily on interviews and affidavits from three self-proclaimed members of the death squad in Tagum City who took part in its killing operations. It also examines the failure of the Philippine government to seriously investigate the death squad and bring those responsible to justice.

Read the Press Release:  http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/20/philippines-death-squad-linked-hundreds-killings

Read the Report:  http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/05/21/one-shot-head