Former DILG Secretary shares forgotten news archive about the history of the Davao Death Squad

Recently, Duterte admitted the existence of DDS but denied creating it. He told reporters to talk to Davao-based journalist Jun Ledesma who knows about DDS.

Good thing we don’t need to go to Davao City to personally talk to Jun Ledesma since former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III dug up an old article written by Jun Ledesma about the Davao Death Squad last year.

Sec. Alunan thinks Ledesma is credible because it appears to him he has a direct knowledge of DDS.

He said that if Ledesma’s account passes the ‘truth test’, his article about DDS can be used to destroy the concoctions of Duterte’s enemies.

Let us read the article of Jun Ledesma.

Of extrajudicial killing & extramarital affair (1st of 2 parts) Thursday, August 25, 2016 By JUN LEDESMA SUNBURSTS

“I should not be the one writing this but it behooves upon me to do so. As a community journalist who witnessed and survived the vicious cycles of martial law era, the reign of terror of the CPP/NPA and its deadly “Sparrow” liquidation squads that ruled over Davao City with impunity I owe it to my young readers to write about certain events in the past that have something to do with the present. Add to this the issue about DDS. I will be brief as I can.

The New People’s Army lost its mass base in Davao City following a massive peoples uprising succinctly described as “alsa masa”. I cannot be exact with the time now. The uprising was triggered by the public execution of three of its “tax collectors”, which unknown to the triggermen were close kin of their top urban commander in Agdao known before as the Nicaragdao of the Philippines. Barely in their teens when they joined the NPA, they were assigned to collect taxes from the already over-burdened mass base (most of the rich families have left Davao).

The executioners had wanted to instill fear on the squatters enclaves to squeeze more from their own mass base. They were executed in broad daylight in the Gotamco basketball court. The death of the three, however, only ignited anger and overnight, the NPA and its Sparrows were hunted by their own men. By nightfall on that day, only the staccato of gunfire and the wailing of dying men were heard. The eerie calmness in Davao City followed by daybreak.

Alsa Masa was not a vigilante group, it was a spontaneous uprising of the people against the NPAs. For some quarters to claim that they organized Alsa Masa which led to the overthrow of the CPP/NPA is a blatant lie. But because of the popularity of the alsa masa uprising, which became a byword, a number of those who joined the movement against the CPP/NPA organized themselves into groups and called themselves Alsa Masa.

They were allowed to keep their firearms to protect themselves from reprisals because the communist military fronts waged a bloody purged of its ranks dubbed “operation ajos” and “operation zombies”. They had just rejoined the folds of the law and to survive they went about selling door mats and brooms. They do not fall under the definition of “vigilantes” which pan-handling human rights watch groups want to portray them.

Senator Leila De Lima’s repeated attribution of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) to President Rodrigo Duterte is nothing but her stoic belief that the then Davao City Mayor organized DDS. DDS was actually a ghost squad conceptualized by then INP Regional Commander Dionisio Tan-Gatue Jr. to counter the offensive of the dreaded NPA Sparrows.


He used a very popular NPA propagandist, the late Juan “Jun” Pala who turned anti-communist radio commentator to spread the existence of this phantom which somehow reduced executions perpetrated by the Sparrows. In those times, Duterte had just passed the bar and was a Tanodbayan investigator and later became Assistant City Fiscal. Politics was never in the wish list of Digong who at the height of insurgency was prosecuting both policemen, military and suspected NPAs over the so many deaths, at least eight victims on a daily basis, taking place in the city.

Aside from Davao Death Squad (DDS), other ghost armies like Contra Force and Christian Soldiers for Democracy were also “fielded” to deceive the advancing and growing control of the NPAs of Davao City. DDS however was to be the most popular of these phantom forces. Fast forward in the unraveling of events, as quickly as the NPAs disappeared in urban center of Davao City, kidnap for ransom (KfR) and drug syndicates crept in coupled with “akyat bahay gangs” and robbery with rape.

The Marcos dictatorship had exited and fiscal Duterte was pushed into politics because his mother, the venerable Nanay Soling, refused to accept the appointment as vice mayor as a prize for her role as among the original pillars of the Yellow Friday Movement. The revolutionary government of Cory Aquino had a solid organization in Davao led by the late businessman Jesus Ayala who was the prime mover of the YFM.

When Nanay Soling turned down the offer, JVA had her name Soledad crossed-out and put the name Rodrigo instead. Digong won in the regular election called after Cory’s revolutionary government. He was to confront the growing menace of drugs, KfR and all other forms of crime. This was dangerous time as terrorism was also on the rise. The Davao Airport and the Sea Ports were bombed.

Duterte was able to address the threats of terrorism by organizing tripping points in porous areas in the city. Kidnaps for ransom were also cut down effectively. Drugs, moreover, remained to be the most tenacious crime for even the school campuses were penetrated by drug pushers. Duterte led the relentless campaign against drug lords.

When a new PDEA head, Colonel Efren Alcuizar, was assigned in the region, they held a summit in a downtown hotel were Alcuizar came out with a list of suspected drug pushers. What followed after that meeting was a systematic killing of many of those in the list.

The summary killings were very much like what happened in Thailand when in February 2003 then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared a war on drugs. Thai police came out with the list of names and what followed after was that over 2,800 suspects were neutralized by what police authorities claimed as the handiwork of the drug lords to keep their identity.

The war on drugs needs a complex strategy and solutions. Early on his term as Mayor, Duterte led a raid of a shabu laboratory operated by unregistered aliens. Not one of the suspects who fought it out with law survived that assault. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned Thailand and later Mayor Duterte for what they dubbed as EJK in their campaign against the proliferation of drugs.

But even as I write this piece today, there is a renewed effort of the Thai police to address drug problems. The UN actually need not go far. Right next to it is Colombia and Mexico where the menace of drugs can only be equaled by the menace of war in Syria and Iraq. In the US military campaign, the victims of its sponsored war are dubbed as collateral damage. The UN has become inured to the human casualties of its war in foreign shores.

Elsewhere across the Pacific where Philippines and Thailand are waging its own campaign against drugs, the UN condemns the leaderships of both nations for carrying out extra-judicial killings. But the UN is not alone. In the Senate hall, for several days now, Leila De Lima, now a hocus PCOs senator, still lambasts President Duterte for taking his war against drugs in the national scale.

This is mind boggling for when she was Justice Secretary and under her watch, the Bilibid Penitentiary was veritably the center of drug trade. But she was unmindful and the national leadership then was as conveniently nonchalant of the impact of that discovery. What can be more incriminating than when she continued to tolerate the special treatment that the inmates, the ones convicted for drug crime, enjoy.

And as if high in drugs herself sung with with them, Colangcoetal, in an elaborate karaoke bar inside the penitentiary! But why is she so consumed with raising the issue of extra-judicial killing which she raises each time a drug suspect is killed. Why is she pleading now for the safety of her driver as though she had the premonition that something might happen to him? That driver ought to submit himself to the authorities for protective custody.

In the vicious campaign against drugs the cartels do not care about the issue of extra-judicial killing neither would they bother about extra-marital affairs. When they think you are a potential character who could unmask their identity they will just consign you to yet another digit in the death statistics.”

Visit the Sunstar Manila to read Part 2.

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