Davao mayor won’t have anti-activist witch-hunt in turf

Military to be included in Pojas slay probe

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has called for a speedy investigation of the murder of peasant leader Celso Pojas, saying he did not want a witch-hunt against political activists in his city.

Duterte, who briefly visited the wake of Pojas, spokesman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement in the Philippines) here, Wednesday said the investigation should cover all possible angles, including the military’s suspected involvement in the killing.

“Whether they’re be plainclothesmen or soldiers in uniform, we’re going to find out who were the military men sighted in the area before the incident happened,” Duterte told reporters. “We’re going to verify intelligence sources to find out if the military, indeed, had a hand in the killing.”

Pojas, who was also secretary-general of the KMP affiliate Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC), was buying cigarettes at a store across the KMP office when he was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle-riding men last May 15.

According to the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Right), he was the first political activist killed in the city, the 14th in the country this year, and the 903rd since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office.

Duterte renewed his old warning that he would not allow killings of political activists to happen in this city the way they are in other parts of the country.

“I have told both the NPA (New People’s Army), the military, again and again, that I do not want any killing of civilians in the city,” Duterte said. “I told the military that if you are going to arrest someone, just pass it on to me and I will do it, provided you have sufficient reason or evidence.”

He said it could be possible that a witch hunt against militants has been going on, but the killing of Pojas did not establish a pattern yet.

Duterte, however, did not set a timetable for the investigation into Pojas’ murder, acknowledging that the police have yet to collect substantial information.

Until Pojas’ death, the city has kept its reputation as a much “safer” place for activists. Although he has repeatedly taken a hard-line stance against drugs and criminals, Duterte has maintained open communications with the rebels and tolerance for activists.

Duterte promised the city government would go after the killers, not only of Pojas, but also of tribal leader Datu Docris Diarog, who died in April when his house was strafed.

The lumad (indigenous peoples) group Pasaka said in a statement that Diarog reportedly refused to sell his two-hectare piece of land to televangelist Apollo Quibuloy, who owns an adjacent prayer mountain.

Quibuloy has denied insinuations he had a hand in the killing of Diarog, saying these only served to muddle the issue and confuse the authorities.

Duterte urged the public not to jump to any conclusions during the investigation into the killings.(PDI)

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