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By ALFRED GABOT, FRANCO REGALA and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 

(Photo from Manila Bulletin)

 

MANILA – Citizens, although they widely support President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, have started to get angry as more people, including young students and teenagers who are perceived to be innocent, are killed by police operatives in their operations.

 

Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the head of the Philippines' powerful Catholic Church,  for one, called for an end to what he described as "waste of human lives" following a brutal week in President Duterte's drug war in which 60 people died in a day of police operatives alone, including Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old student in CalooCan City.

 

Youth groups, human rights organizations and religious communities trooped to EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City on August 21 – the 34th anniversary of the murder of senator Ninoy Aquino – to call for an end to killings in the country.

 

“Sigaw ng taumbayan: itigil ang patayan!” they chanted during the protest dubbed “Himagsikan #JusticeForKian.”

 

US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim joined the chorus of calls for accountability over the anti-drug operation that claimed the life of Kian Lloyd Delos Santos. 

 

"My condolences go out to the family and friends of Kian. Hope that the investigations lead to full accountability," Kim wrote on Twitter. 

 

At the tomb of his father in Paranaque City, former President Benigno S. Aquino III also called for end to killings as he likened them to martial law during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.

 

The Senate whose majority members are allies of President Duterte, meanwhile, assailed the killing of Kian and joined the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice in investigating the killing.

 

The Grade 11 student whose mother has been working in Saudi Arabia was shot dead last Wednesday, August 16, when he allegedly resisted arrest in Barangay 160, Caloocan City. Witnesses, however, claimed the teenager was mauled by policemen, given a gun and told to run before he was shot. The witnesses’ claims were supported by a CCTV recording of an unarmed Kian being waylaid by policemen after he was collared.

 

The public outrage triggered by the killing of Kian prompted President Duterte to call for an investigation over the manner by which Kian was killed at the hands of police officers who executed an anti-drug operation.

 

“Should the investigation point to liabilities by one, two, or all, there will be a prosecution and they have to go to jail,” President Duterte declared at a Malacañang guest house press conference hastily called for that purpose.

 

The Delos Santos family has initiated a move to file a murder complaint in the wake of autopsy findings by the Public Attorney’s Office that Kian succumbed to three gunshot wounds, each of which could have been fatal.

 

Three police officers identified to be behind the arrest and killing of Kian were ordered arrested by Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

 

The three policemen were identified as Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares and Police Officers 1 Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz.

 

Surveillance footage showed 2 officers accompanying Kian Delos Santos to the spot where the boy was killed. Witnesses alleged that the police beat up the victim, gave him a gun by force, and told the teener to run for his life and thereupon was shot at least three times.

 

Duterte said there could have been abuses in his government's war on drugs and ordered the police to take custody of officers who were involved in the killing of Kian Lloyd delos Santos.

 

In a hastily called news conference at the Presidential Guest House, Duterte said he would not condone abuses and the police officers would have to face the consequences of their actions if that is the recommendation of a formal investigation.

 

"There is a possibility that in some of police incidents there could be abuses. I admit that," Duterte said.

 

Duterte said he called up the national police chief after seeing footage from a CCTV camera showing plain clothes police dragging the boy, who was later found dead after what official reports described as gunfight in a sting operation.

 

He said he would abide by the results of an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). "If the NBI says we file charges of murder, sorry to the policemen concerned," he said.

 

"You have to face the justice system. They have to go to jail if convicted," he said.

 

He said there are some rogue elements in the police that were destroying the image of the government.

 

"These abusive police officers are destroying the credibility of the government," he added. "Who will follow the government if the credibility is destroyed."

 

The United States earlier expressed concern on the deaths of thousands of drug suspects under the campaign. President  Duterte, in turn, hurled curses at the Western superpower. 

 

Ties between Manila and Washington have thawed since US President Donald Trump came to power. The American leader has not directly criticized Duterte's controversial campaign so far. 

 

Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said Kian died due to three fatal wounds. “Tatlong fatal wounds po ito – dalawa sa ulo at isa sa likod … Ito ay gunshot wounds. At isa po ay treacherous wound,” she said.

 

The outcome of a re-autopsy conducted at the prompting of the family disclosed that Kian died of three fatal gunshot wounds “that were meant to kill”.

 

The findings by the forensic team from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) prompted the move by the family to file murder charges against police officers implicated in the incident.

 

The viewing at Kian’s wake was interrupted to make way for the four-hour autopsy by the forensic team from PAO.

 

In summary, the team observed that Kian died of three wounds: One bullet wound was at Kian’s back, while two other hits were to his left ear.

 

The Senate majority bloc released a resolution condemning and calling for a probe on the death of Kian Loyd Delos Santos.

 

It is titled a “Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate to condemn the killing of Kian Loyd Delos Santos and to direct the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation to determine the accountability of the Philippine National Police in the conduct of the campaign against illegal drugs that may have resulted in unnecessary and unjustified deaths and/or killings.”

 

The resolution was signed by 14 out of 17 senators belonging to the majority bloc namely Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri. Senators Nancy Binay, Francis Escudero, and Manny Pacquiao  signed the resolution later.

 

More than a hundred Filipino artists are urging President Duterte to stop the government’s bloody war on illegal drugs as they denounced the recent drug-related killings in the country, especially of the “the innocent and young.”

 

“We, Filipino cultural workers, condemn the killings wrought by the war on drugs, especially of the innocent, the young, and those caught in the crossfire,” they said in a statement.

 

“We denounce the normalization of these killings, the pardon of rogue police and military men," the statement was signed by 168 cultural workers; among them were writers Ricky Lee and Lourd de Veyra, filmmakers Lav Diaz and Jun Lana, actors Angeli Bayani and Cherry Pie Picache, director Quark Henares, and musician Ebe Dancel.

 

While the government is waging war against illegal drugs, the group noted its “silence” on the issue of the P6.4-billion worth smuggled shabu from China that allegedly slipped past the Bureau of Customs.

 

“Where Filipinos are dying on mere suspicion of involvement in drugs, where deaths are justified by victims’ inclusion in questionable drug lists, where a few grams of drugs on a person has been used to justify murder, government has fallen silent on the P6.4-billion worth of smuggled drugs from China, for which there have been no suspects charged,” the artists said in a statement.

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Says war on drugs, corruption to continue; terrorists, communists, miners are warned

By ALFRED G. GABOT and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 

(Photo from PCOO)

 

QUEZON CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte, buoyed by his phenomenal approval ratings despite controversies over alleged extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs, addressed both chambers of Congress and the nation on Monday, July 24, and impressed upon the continuation of the campaign against drugs with even greater determination than before.

 

At the same time, Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) described by many as “fiery” and lasted for two hours, warned the terrorists in Marawi City and nearby areas, the rebels from the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), the corrupt officials and employees in government and irresponsible miners.

 

Duterte was widely acclaimed in his SONA despite failing to avoid the "dirty words." Duterte even met rallyists who are critics of his administration outside the Batasan complex after his speech and also met members of the press afterwards.

 

Duterte vowed to press on with the fight against illegal drugs, calling it “the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering” in the country.

 

Illegal drugs “weakens the social fabric” and hinders business, the President stressed.

 

Duterte promised the fight against illegal drugs “will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting,” adding that the fight will continue “until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease.”

 

His ultimatum: “they have to stop, or the alternative is either jail or hell.”

 

He vowed to “make sure, very sure, that they will not have the luxury of enjoying the fruits of their greed or madness.” He said he will not lose the fight against illegal drugs, as to lose would spell “the destruction of the Filipino.”

 

He told critics of the fight against illegal drugs, including foreign governments and UN agencies concerned over the body count and collateral damage, that their “efforts are better spent” if they use the influence and moral ascendancy of their positions and organizations in educating people about the evils of illegal drugs, “instead of blaming the authorities for every killing that bloodies this country.”

 

Nonetheless, he stressed, “don’t get me wrong. I value human life, just as I value life,” but lamented



“I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and criminality,” he addressed the members of Congress. “Look beyond your biases, your political agenda. The search for change is within us.”

 

He underscored his determination to fight the scourge of drugs and criminality: “We will not be cowed. We will not be overwhelmed. This is where our resilience perseverance and determination are tested. We can and will overcome, together, toward a common goal.”

 

The quest for peace drove the spirit of his speech: “It is not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living that we seek.”

 

He mentioned the “red insurgency”, “the Moslem issue for centuries”, where so much lives have been lost. “Peace eludes us,” he noted. “Sometimes I am tempted to think the peace will not come in our lifetime. But it will not be for lack of trying.”

 

“The battle of Marawi has dealt a terrible blow to our quest for peace. I declared martial law in Mindanao because I believed that was the fastest way to defeat the Maute rebellion at the least cost of lives, and to prevent them from spreading hate across the island.”

 

He declared his “unwavering support” to the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the police forces. “To those on the ground in the battlefields, I have your backs. I hold myself, me and me alone, responsible. The people of Marawi need help. If we cannot provide for the poor and the needy, we will not be able to keep from harm the rich. Our armed forces and the police are the silent heroes. Never fear. Do your duty. I stand behind you.”

 

Duterte said he has ordered the dismissal of ranking officials, including a former Cabinet member, pointing out that this should serve as a warning to corrupt members of the government service.

 

“Let the dismissal of several high-ranking officials whom I myself appointed serve as a warning to all that I will never back down on my commitment to cleanse this government,” Duterte said.

 

Duterte, at the same time, said he will raise the government’s budget for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) assistance from P400 million to P1 billion as he cited the overseas Filipinos’ contribution to the country’s economy.

 

“To ensure that their rights protected, I ordered the increase of our assistance for the OFW from P400 million to more than P1 billion,” Duterte said.

 

Duterte warned that the campaign in Marawi City against foreign-inspired terrorists will be pursued until the last terrorist is killed.

 

Duterte also defended his decision to put the entire Mindanao under martial law as the terror crisis in the Islamic city of Marawi continues to rage.

 

“The battle of Marawi has dealt a terrible blow to our quest for peace,” Duterte said.

 

“Alien ideology… has been injected to the local setting.”

 

Duterte said he declared martial law in Mindanao “because I believe that that was the fastest way to quell rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties.”

 

Meeting reporters after his speech, the President said he would build a military over the next two years that could fight on all fronts by recruiting 35,000-40,000 new soldiers, and buying planes and drones to tackle communist and Islamist rebels.

 

Duterte said security threats had increased in the Philippines and the military needed more troops and more modern equipment to meet those challenges.

 

"Today's demand necessitates an army that is strong," he told reporters. "I will build an armed forces that can fight all fronts everywhere."

 

He said he was prepared to "wait it out" before retaking Marawi City from Islamic State-inspired rebels holed up there for two months, because protecting civilians and hostages in the conflict zone was of paramount importance.

 

In his SONA, Duterte tagged the country’s communist rebels as enemies of the state who deserve to be bullied, in yet another signal of frayed ties between the President and the Left.

 

“I used to be friends with the NDF [National Democratic Front of the Philippines],” Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address.

 

“Times have changed because God placed me here. Bully daw ako. T*******o pala kayo, talagang bully ako. P****g i*a. Talagang bully ako especially to the enemies of the state,” the President said.

 

Talks between government and the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front have collapsed to the spate of attacks of New People’s Army rebels against government troops.

 

The President particularly cited the NPAs’ attack on the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato. Later, a chief of police and five of his men were killed in another NPA ambush in Negros Oriental.

 

“Pati ang pulis ko, araw-araw niyong ina-ambush… Pati ako papatayin. Convoy ko kasi iyon eh... Sabagay, malayo ako doon. Pero convoy ko 'yun. Ginamitan 'yun ng machine gun, kaya lang armorized,” he said.

 

He reiterated his earlier decision to halt peace negotiations with the communists. 

 

"Kayong mga Left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?" Duterte stressed.

 

Ending the decades-old communist insurgency has been a top priority for Duterte, but talks have been on and off under the feisty leader, who has accused the communists of being two-faced amid continued armed attacks against state forces.

 

The President has also lambasted the rebels for collecting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses and ordinary people.

 

Duterte warned mining companies that he would tax them "to death" unless they restore the "virginity" of exploited areas.

 

Duterte said he would use revenue from mining taxes to help host communities that were left "in agony."

 

"You have to come up with a substitute, either spend to restore the virginity of the source or I will tax you to death," Duterte said in his annual address to Congress.

 

Duterte said former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez showed mining communities a "clear picture of what was happening horrendously" in mining areas.

 

He also offered a "salute" to ABS-CBN anchor Ted Failon whose program, Failon Ngayon, showed the ill effects of mining on the environment in a recent episode.

 

“I am holding all mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick clean up restoration rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities and extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining's disastrous effects to the health among others," he said.

 

The President told mining firms to stop destroying watersheds, forests and aquatic resources.

 

"The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect one way or another and this policy is non-negotiable," he said.

 

Mining companies should also declare their correct income and pay all taxes, the President said.

 

President Duterte reiterated his support for the re-imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

 

"It is time for us to fulfill our mandate to protect our people. Tapos na 'yan. For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it's also about retribution," he said.

 

He also explained that the essence of the country's penal code is retribution.

 

"Our criminal system uses the revised penal code. That is a law given to us by the Spaniards; the original revised penal code, though it was translated into English. And those two books, the definition of crimes and the penalties and everything, and the thrust of that revised penal code, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of retribution. That is why you have penalty," Duterte said.

 

According to Duterte, instilling fear in criminals is the only way to stop them.

 

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