MANILA, Philippines – Three eyewitnesses to how policemen allegedly executed 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in an anti-drug sweep in Caloocan City last week will face the Senate on Thursday, August 24.
The witnesses – all female, and ages 13, 16, and 31 – were interviewed by a specialist in the presence of representatives from National Bureau of Investigation, the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday afternoon to help prepare their affidavits.
Minerva “June” Ambrosio, director of the National Center for Legal Aid, will be presenting the witnesses, she confirmed on Wednesday, August 23, at Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila.
The witnesses were held in a room at the Child Protection Unit of the PGH, and were asked questions raised by the government representatives. The latter were able to see the witnesses through a one-way mirror, with their consent.
The affidavits, signed by the witnesses, will be presented at the Senate hearing on Thursday.
“They are ready [to testify] because they will only be telling the truth,” Ambrosio said.
“But of course since they are children, we have to explain to them what will happen, and that there is nothing for them to be scared of,” she added.
The witnesses have been under the custody of Senator Risa Hontiveros since Saturday, when the senator visited Delos Santos’ wake in Caloocan.
Hontiveros said she took custody of the witnesses upon the family’s request after they received threats.
She said she commited to the family to prioritize the protection of the witnesses and to attain justice for Delos Santos.
“It pains me that we had to reach this far – to have a 17-year-old kid [killed] for people to take notice,” Hontiveros said.
Critics, especially on social media, have called out politicians, including Hontiveros, for supposedly using Delos Santos’s death for their agenda. Several other politicians – , including Vice President Leni Robredo, and senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV – visited the wake.
Hontiveros said her support is not about politics but solely about Delos Santos and his family.
“This is not about politics, this is about Kian. This is about the thousands like Kian who have been killed and victimized by the drug war,” the senator said. “This is about what we have long been protesting – that this is not the way to fight drugs.”
Hontiveros said President Rodrigo Duterte cannot claim innocence about the killings, since he was the one who had encouraged cops to kill in the name of the drug war, and promised them protection.
“He cannot clean his hands because it is his words which have been treated as policies by many that ignited this chain of violence,” Hontiveros said.
On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II insisted that the witnesses be placed instead in government custody, warning that Hontiveros’ political affiliation might affect the credibility of their testimonies.
“Of course it will affect the credibility of these witnesses considering the bias of their handler,” Aguirre said.
“It is the WPP (Witness Protection Program) which has the mandate to protect witnesses,” he said.
Earlier, Delos Santos’ family asked that the witnesses be transferred to the custody of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
Hontiveros said, however, that the families of the witnesses are the ones who prefer that they be under her custody.
Caloocan Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremiah Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz have been identified as the ones who took Delos Santos from outside the family store on the night of August 16, and brought him several dark alleys down, and shot him dead at a dead-end.
They claimed the Grade 11 student shot at them first, but witnesses, a CCTV footage, an autopsy supervised by PAO, and results of the test conducted by the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory refute that claim. – Rappler.com
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