MANILA, Philippines – Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David slammed the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos, a 17-year-old student shot by the police after he allegedly fought back during anti-drug operations in Caloocan City.
"This is one very specific case where an innocent individual, who happens to be just a boy, a grade 11 student, you snuff out the future of a child," David said in a phone interview with Rappler on Friday, August 18.
"That really crushes my heart as bishop. I cannot possibly keep quiet about this," said David, the incoming vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
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.
Police said they had to shoot Delos Santos back in self defense.
CCTV video and testimonies by witnesses, however, indicated otherwise.
CCTV footage showed policemen dragging Delos Santos, his head covered, to the place where he was eventually shot.
Witnesses interviewed by ABS-CBN also contradicted the police. One of them said it was the police that handed Delos Santos a gun, and ordered him to pull the trigger and run.
"Sabi daw po nila, may baril, pero ang totoo po wala po talaga, kasi bumili pa po siya sa tindahan nu'ng time na 'yon. Inangat angat pa niya po mga damit niya. Wala po talaga," a crying witness told ABS-CBN.
(They said he had a gun, but the truth is there was none, because he even bought from my store at that time. He was even pulling up his clothes. He really had no gun.)
The witness also recounted how the police allegedly handed the gun to the 17-year-old.
"Sabi, 'Hawakan mo 'to.' Sabi po ni Kian, 'Ano pong gagawin ko dito?' 'Iputok mo. Tapos tumakbo ka.' Iyon daw po ang pagkakasabi. Tapos si Kian po, umiiyak na po siya," the witness said.
(The police said, "Hold this." Kian answered, "What will I do with this?" "Pull the trigger. Then run." That was how he said it. Kian was already crying.)
'Is this what the drug war is about?'
The Kalookan bishop said on Friday, "We do believe this is one very specific case of abuse."
David said he also pities the victim's father, who also spoke in an ABS-CBN interview.
"It crushes your heart just listening to this because it's like listening to so many others' frightened testimonies," he said.
David also cited other alleged abuses by the police.
He said that in Navotas, for example, he has received reports of abduction, which "were reported as legitimate police operations."
"But the ones who abducted them were in bonnets," David said in a mix of English and Filipino. "So my natural question is, you mean to say that the bonnet gang and the police are the same?"
"Who needs martial law if our police would behave this way?" said one of the bishops most outspoken against extrajudicial killings. (READ: Bishop slams vigilantes as 'termites,' 'new Judases')
"Are we forgetting that they have not suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, that you cannot just abduct people, you cannot just arrest people, you cannot just enter anybody’s house without a search warrant?"
"It seems there's no rule of law anymore. Is this what the drug war is about? Does it curtail all our civil liberties?" the bishop said.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Friday defended the series of "one-time, big-time" drug raids in Bulacan and Metro Manila.
"This is not a reckless exercise of blood letting. There's a rhyme and a reason in the police operations," Abella said on Friday.
On the death of Delos Santos, Abella said, "That incident, happily, I think is isolated." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.