4-year-old killed by stray bullet from Cebu City anti-drug operation

Rambo Talabong

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4-year-old killed by stray bullet from Cebu City anti-drug operation
Police say Skyler Abatayo was killed by a bullet from drug suspects and not from cops, but this has yet to be proven by a ballistics examination

MANILA, Philippines – A 4-year-old boy* was hit by a stray bullet during a police operation in Cebu City, becoming an innocent victim in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Speaking to Rappler, Cebu City Station 5 Commander Senior Inspector John Escober said police received reports of drug suspects enjoying a pot session and repacking shabu (methamphetamine) at a slum area in Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita, prompting them to send cops.

Two cops led the check, while two others stayed back, said Escober.

When the police arrived at the house where the alleged pot session was being held, they were supposedly met by 4 suspects “drawing their guns.” A shootout ensued.

According to Escober, no suspects were killed or captured, as they were able to quickly flee from the scene. (READ: Half of Filipinos don’t believe cops’ ‘nanlaban’ line – SWS survey)

It was only when cops were about to leave that a local told them a child had been hit by a bullet from the shooting, identified as Skyler Abatayo.

Cops brought the bleeding boy to a nearby hospital, Escober said, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Escober told Rappler they were “sure” that the bullet that hit the child came from the suspects and not from them. But this has yet to be proven by a ballistics examination.

The police commander stood by the integrity of his cops, saying that they came to the neighborhood in good faith, and shot it out with the suspects to protect themselves.

Abatayo is not the first case of an innocent slain in the crossfire of an anti-drug operation. On August 23, 2016, 5-year-old Danica May Garcia was killed by a stray bullet in an anti-drug operation in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. Garcia was killed as she was preparing to go to school. – Rappler.com

*Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that Skyler Abatayo was 3 years old, based on information provided by the police. The boy’s family, in an interview, later clarified the child’s age.

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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.