Pimentel vows 'impartial' Senate probe into Kian's death
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said an "independent" Senate would conduct an “impartial” probe into the recent spate of drug-related killings, after the death of 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos during a drug raid in Caloocan City.
“Don’t worry about the Senate, we know what we’re doing. These are independent-minded people in the Senate right now,” Pimentel, a staunch administration ally, said in a Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday, August 22.
Amid public outcry, the majority bloc denounced the boy’s killing and called for an investigation. It was the first formal condemnation from President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the chamber, as some defended him and his bloody drug war during marathon Senate hearings on extrajudicial killings in 2016. (READ: Drilon to Senate majority: Be impartial in probe into Kian's death)
Asked if the majority bloc’s move was prompted by the public backlash, Pimentel said it was not the sole basis. Protesters took to the streets to express rage and indignation over Delos Santos' death.
“We were not really, we did not come up with the resolution because of public outrage, there was also outrage among senators themselves,” he said.
“What’s happening now, how many killed in 24 or in 48 hours? Plus a minor… then plus I think some senators already saw the CCTV footages, so that is why,” he added, referring to the CCTV video of Delos Santos.
Caloocan police claimed that Delos Santos was a drug suspect who, upon seeing them during anti-drug operations, fired his gun toward the direction of the cops.
But CCTV video and witnesses’ testimonies indicated otherwise. Pimentel, however, said he would want to verify the contents of the video first before judging the case.
"I could not see the shorts, I could not see the face, the shirt. If indeed confirmed, then the story is easy to piece together," he said.
Despite Duterte’s repeated pronouncements on killings, the previous Senate hearings, headed by Senate justice committee chair Richard Gordon, ended with a conclusion that neither the state nor the President sanctioned the summary executions.
This finding, Pimentel said, does not necessarily mean that the Senate was partial for the President. He claimed they just followed the evidence presented them and not stories.
“That doesn’t mean that was cleared that was partial. We always have impartial hearings in the Senate. We follow the evidence. Maybe in the past no evidence convince the senators to any link. Should there be any evidence, we would also come up with objective conclusion,” Pimentel said.
“We always try our best to be impartial in the Senate. We follow the evidence. Unfortunately, we don’t follow kwento (stories). Some of our countrymen, they love to follow stories, it's easy to make up stories. Those who have stories to tell should appear before us and substantiate their stories,” he said.
When asked, Pimentel said the Senate’s previous findings would not affect the results of the impending investigation and vice versa. Each killing should be treated separately, he added.
“So we cannot say just because may nadiskubre kang isang (when you discover one) summary execution that all of the other thousand deaths are also summary executions, especially with the fact that there was not only one operator, these are hundreds of police teams operating. So each case should be approached individually,” Pimentel said.
But administration senators then questioned the two’s credibility and removed opposition Senator Leila de Lima as justice committee chairperson for supposed lack of objectivity. – Rappler.com