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TEENAGER’S KILLING SPARKS ANGER OVER WAR ON DRUGS

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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