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  • Clarita Alia shows photos of Fernando, one of four sons who have died in execution-style killings in Davao.

    Clarita Alia shows photos of Fernando, one of four sons who have died in execution-style killings in Davao. | Photo: Reuters

Though the president-elect has repeatedly denied ties the many murders by death squads in Davao City, he has condoned them.

A four-year probe into death squad killings in the Philippines hasn't led to a single prosecution, and one senior National Bureau of Investigation agent said it will probably be shelved now that Davao City former mayor Rodrigo Duterte is set to become president. The nation’s Justice Secretary last week told reporters the probe may not be able to proceed.

Such impunity, and Duterte's demands in recent weeks for more summary justice, could embolden death squads across the country, say human rights and church groups. Already there has been a spate of unsolved killings in nearby cities, with other mayors echoing Duterte's support for vigilante justice.

Human rights groups have documented at least 1,400 killings in Davao that they allege had been carried out by death squads since 1998. Most of those murdered were drug users, petty criminals and street children.

In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch identified a consistent failure by police to seriously investigate targeted killings. It said acting and retired police officers worked as "handlers" for death-squad gunmen, giving them names and photos of targets.


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