Undas 2017: Relatives of Kian delos Santos' pray for justice
MANILA, Philippines – Despite the steady downpour, thousands flocked the La Loma cemetery in Caloocan to pray for their deceased loved ones in observance of the All Saints’ Day on Wednesday, November 1.
Between two parallel apartment style tombs and along a narrow pathway at the cemetery, people gathered to bring flowers and light up candles. Others silently stood still along the same passageway as they offered prayers for their departed ones.
In contrast to the busy atmosphere, one particular tomb had neither lighted candles nor displayed flowers in front of it. There were no visitors as well. Instead, there were two vases with nearly wilted plants in front of the marble slab which marked the grave.
The plain-looking tomb belonged to Kian delos Santos, the 17-year-old who was killed at a one-time, big-time police illegal operation in August 17. Police claimed that a gunman fired shots at them first, prompting the cops to return fire. They ended up killing the gunman who was supposedly Kian.
According to Randy delos Santos, Kian’s uncle, he and other relatives visited the tomb over the weekend to avoid the fanfare and to ensure their own security. As in his past prayers for his nephew, Randy prayed for justice.
“Panalangin namin na mabigyan siya ng hustisya sa nangyari sa kanya. Malungkot kami sa pamilya kasi kulang kami,” Randy said in a phone interview with Rappler. (Our prayer is to seek justice over what happened to them. We are sad because we are no longer complete)
For Randy and his family, this year’s All Saints' Day, also known as Undas in the Philippines, proved to be different from the past years. Before, they would only light candles for their dead grandfathers and grandmothers. This year, they lighted candles for Kian who was only a teenager.
“Napakalungkot ng sinapit niya kasi napakabata niya nung nawala siya. Marami pa pwede nangyari sa kanya,” Randy added. (He was too young to have died. He could have done a lot of things with his life)
Randy is not alone.
Thousands observed this year’s Undas as the government’s war on drugs racked up to more than 14,000 deaths in both police operations and vigilante-style killings. Just like Randy, families of those killed under the government’s war on drugs are crying for justice for the death of their loved ones on the day for the dead.
Kian’s death gripped the nation for weeks as it challenged the all-too-familiar narrative given by cops involved in the government’s war on drugs – that those killed in operations fought back while resisting or, in Filipino, “nanlaban.”
Records show that Kian was found dead in a fetal position, as he held a gun in his left hand. That could not be right according to his father who claimed that Kian was right-handed.
“Paulit-ulit na lang na kapag may nadidisgrasya silang mga pulis, palalabasin nila na may nanlaban. Parang photocopy na lang spot report nila eh. Iba 'yung kay Kian. Ito yung kay Kian, may CCTV at may witnesses. Kaya naniniwala kami na may laban yung kaso,” Randy said.
(Again and again, when somebody accidentally gets killed in operations, they would say that those who were killed fought back. Their spot reports look like a photocopy. But Kian's case is different. In his case, a CCTV captured what happened and there are witnesses to back it up. That is why we have reason to hope that we will find justice)
Randy does not have any idea whether Kian’s parents already visited the tomb. Late in August, the Department of Justice placed Saldy and Lorenza delos Santos under the Witness Protection Program. Since then, he said, he has had limited contact with the family. From their last interaction, Randy said Kian’s parents are still positive to continue on with the case.
Although there are no candles and flowers on Kian's tomb on the day of the dead, Randy said his newphew was not being forgotten. More than 2 months since the 17 year old was laid to rest, Randy’s prayer to get justice over the untimely death of his nephew remains steadfast. "Hindi namin bibitawan yung kaso," he promised. (We will not give up on the case.) – Rappler.com