Protests meet new Davao police chief

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Militant groups and human rights advocates have protested the appointment of a se­nior police official as Davao City police chief who was behind the bloody dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City last year.

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Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum, former North Cotabato police director, replaced Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon after being chosen by Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte-Carpio as the new police chief.

During their meeting, Carpio told Tagum to do his job of ensuring peace and order and to strictly implement the law.

“I just told him to do his job and not to listen to anyone. I told him that he just needed to do his duties and responsibilities as our city director and to cascade it to his men. I vetted him properly and thoroughly,” she said.

But Tagum’s appointment was strongly condemned by human rights groups Karapatan and Bayan.

“Tagum must be held liable for the deaths of 2 individuals including a bystander and wounding several peasants during a violent dispersal in Kidapawan City last April 1, 2016,” Jay Apiag, spokesman for Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, said.

He also accused Tagum as behind the illegal arrest of nearly 100 hungry farmers, including 16 of their leaders, during the dispersal of protesters who were demanding rice subsidies from the government in Kidapawan, which had been hit by a dry spell.

“Tagum’s appointment as acting director for Davao City Police Office illustrates the reign of culture of impunity in this government,” Apiag said.

Sheena Duazo, secretary-general of Bayan in Mindanao, said Tagum should answer for his alleged human rights violations during his stint as provincial police director in North Cotabato.

“It is disgusting to note that instead of holding him accountable over various crimes, he is being hailed by the government. His deployment here will surely be met with growing resistance as we reiterate our call to prosecute him and hold him accountable over the Kidapawan massacre and various crimes,” she noted.

Tagum had repeatedly denied all accusations against him and said the protesters attacked policemen with guns and rocks and that farmers shot and killed two of their own during the dispersal.

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