‘Justice for Kian’: mourners remember Philippine teen shot dead by narcotics police
The death of the 17-year old has drawn huge domestic attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers
More than a thousand mourners attended a funeral procession in the Philippines capital Manila on Saturday for a high school student, whose killing last week by narcotics officers has caused rare public outrage about the country’s war on drugs.
Kian Loyd Delos Santos was dragged by plainclothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in northern Manila, before he was shot in the head and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses whose accounts appeared to be backed up by CCTV footage.
The death of the 17-year old has drawn huge domestic attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge the authorities deny.
“I came to support the family. I want justice for Kian and all victims – including my son,” said Katherine David, 35, whose 21-year old son was shot dead by police in January.
Mourners, some of them wearing white shirts displaying the words “Justice for Kian,” held flowers and small flags, and placards denouncing the killing, as the procession including vans and motorbikes moved out of Delos Santos’ home in Caloocan city.
Delos Santos’ flower-draped coffin passed slowly through narrow streets on a flat-bed truck with two black and red coloured tarpaulins containing the words “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the killings” displayed on each side.
The cortege made a brief stop in front of police precinct where three police officers involved in the killing of Delos Santos were assigned before proceeding to the church.
The parents and lawyers of Delos Santos filed a murder complaint against the three anti-narcotics policemen on Friday.
If accepted, the complaint would follow at least two cases filed last year against police over President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of Filipinos, outraged human rights groups and alarmed Western governments.
“We march today to bring Kian to his final resting place and to support the call for justice for all victims of Duterte’s fascist drug war,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of left-wing activist group Bayan (Nation), said in a statement.
“We call for accountability of the police officers directly involved in the killings as well as accountability of the commander-in-chief who sanctioned the killings.”
David believes the response to Kian’s killing marks a turning point in opposite to the drug war.
“There’s been a big change. Before, police could kill and nobody paid attention. Now people are starting to show support and sympathy,” she said.
Reuters journalists spoke to at least two dozen witnesses, friends and neighbours of Delos Santos in Manila’s Caloocan area about his killing.
They said he was a kind, popular teenager who liked to joke around and didn’t drink or do drugs. He was too poor to own a gun, they said. Some locals said they feared reprisals from the police for speaking out.
But Erwin Lachica, 37, a welder, said he saw three men in civilian clothes enter the area on two motorbikes. All three had handguns tucked into their waistbands, he said.
Lachica recognised them as officers from previous police operations in the neighbourhood. They were later identified as Arnel Oares, Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz.
According to a police report issued a day after the killing, when the teenager saw officers approaching, he immediately drew a weapon and shot at them. Oares, who led the operation, returned fire and killed him, it said.
“It was dark, he fired at us,” Pereda told the Senate inquiry this week. “We knew it was a gun, there was a loud sound. We saw a gleam of light.”
Police have cited self-defence as the pretext for killing more than 3,500 people in operations since Duterte came to power.
Lachica had a different version of events. He said Delos Santos was standing outside a shop when the men grabbed him, and then slapped and punched him until he started crying. No gunbattle took place, he said.
“He was saying he was innocent, he was not a drug addict,” added Lachica, who said the men put Delos Santos in a headlock and dragged him away.