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
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 23, July 15-21, 2007
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 city’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 July 8, 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.”
Alma Doysabas, advocacy officer of Tambayan Center, a nongovernment group that runs a halfway house for juvenile delinquents, criticized the creation of the Anti-Hoodlum Unit, saying such a tough approach to crime and juvenile delinquency is hardly the solution. “What do they think of a shotgun? Good lord!” she said.
Calling minors “hoodlum” won’t help either, Doysabas said. “Labeling minor offenders as hoodlums has a negative effect on their persons. They would tend to see themselves the way authorities and society consider them,” Doysabas explained. “Instead of giving them hope, for them to see and believe that they can still reform their ways, change their lives and grow, they would tend to think they are hopeless cases as they are already discriminated.”
Doysabas said even requiring people to show their birth certificates to prove they are not minors is “unfair” as many Filipinos, especially in poor communities, do not keep records of birth certificates in their homes.
Already, she said, there have been reports of men prowling the city streets at night, targetting youths in the streets. These men are on board Lawin jeepneys, clad in fatigues, black long sleeves, leather bels, even gloves and bonnets, according to Doysabas. The men, she said, are usually armed with rattan whips and baseball bats. Incidents of harassment of minors by these men have happened in Bankerohan, Boulevard and Agdao, Doysabas told davaotoday.com.
Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad, chairperson of the council’s committee on Women and Children and Family Relations, said gangsterism is a social problem, not a police problem and that these needs to be addressed comprehensively.
Doysabas said that instead of sending out armed men to crack down on young people in the streets, the city should implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Law, which provides for a so-called restorative, instead of punitive, system in dealing with children in conflict with the law. Duterte has time and again called this law “stupid” and that it gets in his way of keeping the city free of crime.
“What we are hoping is for authorities to dig deeper into the causes” of juvenile delinquency, Doysabas said. “We hope they would try to understand the problem.”
For one, Doysabas said her group has found out that, in most cases, children involved in gangs have histories of abuses in their very homes. “Their tendency is to get out of their homes and find solace somewhere,” she said. “They eventually find their way into the company of fellow youths. If no one would be able to guide their ways, and if what they could see around are adults in their communities who are also involved in wrongdoings and, worst, are abusive to them, they intend to follow what they see.”
And if government is “reactive” in trying to solve the problem — by enforcing means that are physical and confrontational that hardly instill respect for authorities — these minors are more likely to rebel, thus the vicious cycle,” Doysabas said.
But Duterte shot back at his critics. “What do you want me to call them if not criminals?” he asked in his television program last Sunday. He said he considers people who hurt, rob, and rape as criminals, regardless of age. “If not a criminal, if not a hoodlum, then what are they? Angels?” Duterte said.
He said groups like Tambayan are “pampering” these delinquents. Minors, he said, should be taught accountability and a sense of responsibility to society. “We should tell them straight that if you kill, if you rape someone, you are going to face consequences,” he said.
The mayor warned NGOs from interfering with his work. “You continue to interfere with my work. I might end up hitting you,” he said. “Do not interfere with the work of the police, or else I will also beat you up as well,” he said.
Doysabas said they were unfazed by the mayor’s threat. “We’re used to hearing him say those things,” she said.
Duterte has the support of some members of the City Council. Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, the chairman of the Peace and Public Safety Committee, enjoined Davaoeños to rally behind the mayor. “I urge everybody, the citizenry, to support and rally behind the mayor’s campaign against gangsterism. We must participate in his advocacy,” Dayanghirang said a privilege speech last week.
Dayanghirang also urged parents to do their part, asking them to be responsible. “They must provide their children the love that they deserve. Otherwise, the parents do not have business (getting) the sympathy of the public if their children are killed in violence if they themselves are negligent of their children’s needs,” he said.
Dayanghirang told child NGOs to back off. “The NGOs, instead of criticizing and opposing the government’s way of eliminating gangsterism, should back off and understand how the government operates,” he said. “They should not use the ongoing gang war problem as an opportunity to criticize and oppose the government but instead to look at this campaign to fight against gangsterism in a very objective manner.”
Another councilor, April Dayap, who is the Sangguniang Kabataan representative to the council, said she supports the mayor as long as the approach is “good.” She said the mayor means well. When told about the shotguns, Dayap said she had not heard of it. Maybe, she told davaotoday.com, Duterte “was just being figurative.”
Doysabas, responding to the criticism of NGOs, said child advocates should not be disheartened by the mayor and his allies. “We consider this a challenge to NGOs and to other people to uphold the children’s rights,” she said. “If we are afraid, who will protect the children?” With a report from Tyrone Velez / Davao Today / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)