Duterte gov’t behind killing of teens? ‘Kalokohan,’ says Alvarez

Bea Cupin
Duterte gov’t behind killing of teens? ‘Kalokohan,’ says Alvarez
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez instead points to drug lords or political enemies as those possibly behind the deaths of teenagers linked to the drug war

MANILA, Philippines – For Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the recent spate of killings of teenagers in the Duterte administration’s drug war should be investigated, but not for the same reasons human rights groups and the political opposition have raised.

“Kasi nakita natin ‘yung proseso eh, na sadya itong mga minors, sunod-sunod o, pinapatay. So ano motibo dito, ‘di ba? Malinaw, para mag-aklas, magalit sa administrasyon. Malinaw na malinaw. Maaaring gawain ito ng mga drug lord para mahinto ang kampanya against illegal drugs, o maaaring gawain ito ng pulitika. Dalawang possibilities ito. Pero para sabihin mong gawa ito ng administrasyon, kalokohan ito,” said Alvarez on Monday, September 11, in an interview on CNN Philippines.

(We see the process. These minors are being killed one after another. So what’s the motive, right? It’s clear, to revolt and express anger against the administration. It’s very clear. Drug lords could be carrying out these killings to stop the campaign against illegal drugs, or this could be about politics. There are two possibilities. But to say that the administration is behind this, that’s foolish.)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs came under fire again following the recent killings of minors. In Caloocan City, 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was gunned down by police during a drug raid. He was allegedly found carrying illegal drugs. Police claim Delos Santos fought back but evidence – CCTV footage, witness accounts, and forensic tests – tell a different story.

Just a couple of days after Delos Santos was shot dead, another teenager, 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz, was also killed in a police operation. He supposedly robbed a taxi driver and fought back against police who were trying to catch him. But preliminary evidence – testimony from the cab driver and forensic tests – contradict the police’s narrative.

These deaths have sparked renewed outrage against what critics claim are blatant violations of due process and human rights in the name of the drug war. Police have repeatedly denied the allegations against them.

Alvarez’s sentiment mirrors that of Duterte himself, who had earlier expressed belief that the deaths could be attributed to the administration’s enemies.

Duterte’s drug war has been both popular and bloody. Over 3,800 drug suspects have died in police operations since July 2016, with thousands more killed in vigilante-style executions. Tens of thousands of suspects have been arrested while more than a million alleged drug personalities have “surrendered” under Oplan Tokhang.

The United Nations and human rights groups have expressed concern over the deaths. Despite the criticism, Duterte and the drug war itself have remained popular in the country.

The teenagers’ deaths drew condemnation even in the Senate, which is dominated by Duterte allies. The “supermajority” bloc in the House of Representatives, however, has yet to act on resolutions filed calling for a probe into the same deaths.

Where has he been hiding?

In reaction to Alvarez’s remarks, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano wondered where the Speaker has been the past year.

“Hindi ba siya aware na libo-libo na ang namatay sa war on drugs? Marami na rin ang napaslang na mga kabataan (Doesn’t he know that thousands have died in the war on drugs? Many of those killed were the youth),” Alejano said in a statement.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, a member of the House opposition bloc, also rejected the emphasis on alleged sabotage.

“If the leadership would focus on just the angle of a perceived conspiracy to incite anger against the Duterte administration, it shows how myopic and paranoid they have become,” he said.

“We need an objective, impartial, and thorough investigation into the killings as it relates to policy, legislation, and organizational values it has imbibed in our institutions.”

Makabayan bloc member and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate also said it’s about time that the House leadership “prioritize the hearing of extrajudicial killings in the country.”

“These killings must stop. We must also be wary that some elements, both outside and even from the present administration, are themselves undermining the war on drugs to apparently confuse our people and camouflage the accountability of big-time drug lords and narcopoliticians,” he added.

All 3 lawmakers are sponsors of resolutions calling for a House inquiry into deaths in the drug war. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.