Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has abandoned his threat to force members of the laglag-bala (bullet-planting) syndicate to swallow live bullets.
This time, Duterte wants communist rebel hitmen and death squads to finish off the syndicate.
He also called on President Benigno Aquino to take “drastic action and not lip service” against the syndicate.
The syndicate, allegedly involving aviation, police and civilian personnel at the aiports, victimizes airplane passengers going abroad, nostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), through extortion after secretly planting bullets in their luggage. The victims are fleeced of large sums and allowed to board their flight. Bringing bullets into aiports is a violation of the country’s firearms and ammunition law.
The bad press over the shakedown of passengers at Philippine airports has gone international that even the United Nationas (UN) warned its personnel travelling to the Philippines against the racket.
The government has ordered an investigation following public outcry over slow action against the syndicate by President Benigno Aquino. The laglag-bala racket is said to have been operating for years without airport authorities moving to stop it.
With the 2016 national election coming in May, the brouhaha over the laglag-bala has become a hot political issue against the administration.
Lately, Mar Roxas, the presidential bet of Aquino’s ruling Liberal party, reaped a flood of criticism after saying that government should not be faulted if passengers bring bullets into the airport. Roxas is Aquino’s former Interior Secretary.
Migrante, the militant group espousing and defending rights of the OFWs, said the millions-strong Filipino overseas workers would not vote for Roxas.
In his latest pronouncement, Duterte gave the syndicate members caught at the Davao International Airport the choice of getting a bullet shot to the head from the “Sparrow or the DDS.”
The Sparrows, coined after Special Partisan Unit (Sparu), is the liquidation squad of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The deadly hitmen were blamed for the killing of hundreds of police and military personnel and civilians during the height of rebel occupancy in the 80s of Davao City then widely known as the Philippines’ “Killing Field.” The urban guerillas moved up to the city’s farflung mountain districts after Duterte, known for his close ties with rebel ground commanders, won his first mayoral term in 1988. Peace has since reigned in Davao City, considered today as one of Asia’s most peaceful cities. Duterte is on his way to three decades as mayor of the premier city of Mindanao.
Even as Davao City has shed off its image of the 70s and 80s as the NPA “laboratory of urban guerilla warfare,” the Sparrow unit is said to be behind some of today’s liquidation of targets in downtown Davao.
The DDS is the motorcycle-riding 45.cal.-armed Davao Death Squad tagged as behind more than a thousand summary executions of suspected criminals, nostly involved in the drug trade. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has investigated Duterte for human rights violations for his alleged links to the death squad, which surfaced as an anti-crime vigilante group during the first mayoral term of Duterte in 1988.
You choose, the Sparrow or the DDS, said Duterte as an alleged victim of the laglag-bala racket carried luggage snapped by X-Ray at the Davao airport with two 9mm bullets.
The victim, a 62-year old male hydrologist was on his flight out for Manila after attending a business meeting in Davao City. The victim, the first recorded at the Davao airport after the laglag-bala controversy exploded in Manila, has been charged with illegal possession of ammunition but fred on bail. He denied owning the bullets and told police he could not know why the bullets were in his luggage.
Duterte earlier said that he would force to swallow live bullets syndicate members caught at the Davao airport.
He also said he would himself finish them off at the hospital if they go for operation to have the bullets removed.
Duterte said the syndicate has “jeopardized” the Filipino people and called on President Aquino to take “not lip service but drastic action” against the syndicate.
Duterte has emerged as a strong contender to the presidency but is not running despite his high ranking in pre-poll surveys and strong public clamor for him to join the 2016 race to Malacanang.