Youth leaders ask Duterte: Where’s all-out drug war vs rich, powerful?

Rambo Talabong
Youth leaders ask Duterte: Where’s all-out drug war vs rich, powerful?
'Have you seen drug operations in Forbes? Have you seen war on drugs in Bel-Air?' says a speaker at the rally calling for an end to killings

MANILA, Philippines – Where is the all-out war on drugs against the rich and powerful?

Youth leaders posed this question at the Himagsikan Para kay Kian (Revolt for Kian) rally held at the People Power Monument on EDSA Monday, August 21. 

Kian delos Santos, 17, was gunned down by cops last week during a drug raid – the only one killed in the impoverished neighborhood in Caloocan City. The police said the young man, whom they labeled a drug runner, fired the first shots.

But CCTV footage and eyewitness reports say Delos Santos was blindfolded by cops, beaten up, forced to hold gun, before they shot him. Autopsy results showed he was killed by 3 bullets that entered the back of his head.  

The manner Delos Santos was dealt with sparked public outrage, prompting the rally on August 21, the 34th year when opposition figure Benigno Aquino Jr was gunned down by government forces, sparking protests againstn dictator Ferdinand Marcos. 

Akbayan Youth representative Shamah Bungasin said police are deliberately targeting communities such as Delos Santos’ that cannot produce evidence due to their poverty.

“Most cases of [extrajudicial killings] happen in these places in Camanava, most especially in the depressed areas. Why? Kasi walang magagamit na ebidsnya, walang CCTV camera (because there is no evidence, there are no CCTV cameras),” Bungasin said.

Hindi natin masasabing suwerte si Kian, pero buti na lang talaga merong CCTV na nakakuha para makita ng lahat ng tao na ang war on drugs na ito ay kurap, ang war on drugs na to ay unfair, ang war on drugs na ito ay inhumane,” Bungasin added. 

(We cannot say that Kian was lucky, but it was a good thing that there was a CCTV that was able to record [what happened] to show that this war on drugs is corrupt, unfair, and inhumane.)

Karla Yu, representative of the Millennials Against Dictators, reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that majority of Filipinos are poor.

Ang interes po natin ang dapat na prioridad ng Pangulo. Kanino bang interes ang kanyang interes? Sa kanila. Lahat po ng biktima sa war on drugs na ito puro po mahihirap, puro po walang yaman, mga taong walang boses, mga tao na hindi kayang sumagot kay Pangulo na tama na,” Yu said.

(The President should prioritize our interest. Whose interest is he prioritizing? Theirs. All of the victims in this war on drugs are poor, voiceless, people who cannot talk back to the President and tell him, enough of this.)

Bungasin accused the police of being selective and gentle with their drug inspection in richer communities. (READ: Drug raids toll hits 81 in 4 days)

Sa’n ka nakakakita ng war on drugs na operations na nangyayari sa Forbes? Saan ka nakakita ng war on drugs na nangyayari sa Bel-Air?” Bungasin said, referring to exclusive subdivisions for the richest families in Makati. “Puro sa mga areas kung saan maraming tao na wala na ngang kinakain, sinasabi pa nila na binibili pa nila ng drugs ‘yung pera na pangkain nila at pambayad nila ng renta,” 

(Have you seen drug operations in Forbes? Have you seen war on drugs in Bel-Air? They operate in areas where people have nothing to eat, and yet they are accused of using the little money they have to buy drugs instead of buying food and paying their rent.)

Lenient toward alleged drug lords

While majority of operations are carried out in poor communities, with police barging into houses and shooting small-time drug users and pushers, authorities once made what appeared to be perfunctory rounds in posh subdivisions, politely knocking on gates – but not allowed in by maids – and merely handing anti-drug posters or pamphlets.

Of the long list of elected officials that President Duterte claims to hold, two mayors allegedly involved in the drug raid have been killed months apart. They supposedly fired the first shots too in pre-dawn raids. 

Last July 30, policemen killed Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife, two siblings, and 11 other people after they allegedly fired first while beijg served a search warrant before dawn. In October 2016, police arrested Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, father of alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. The elder Espinosa was killed inside his cell when he supposedly exchanged fire with policemen who were serving a warrant pre-dawn.

Meanwhile, alleged Visayas drug lord Peter Lim has been given the chance to clear his name by the President himself, and called to a preliminary investigation only nearly a year after Duterte identified him as drug lord. 

The President has also been uncharacteriscally quiet on the P6.4 billion worth of shabu that was smuggled from China in May, got past the customs bureau, contaminated as evidence in a warehouse, and now being linked to his son Paolo Duterte.

According to the data from police, they have also arrested 1,340 high-value targets (HVTs) and taken in 3,522 HVT surrenderers from July 2016 to June 2017. – 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.