MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, August 20, condemned the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos, the 17-year-old student shot by police after allegedly fighting back during anti-drug operations in Caloocan City.
If it could happen to Delos Santos, Robredo said it could also happen to anyone, pointing out that he was the same age as her youngest daughter, Jillian.
"Alam mo ito, parang napaka-personal sa akin, kasi ka-edad niya iyong bunso ko. Kaya kapag nangyayari ito sa ganyan, maiisip mo na kung nangyari sa kanya, puwedeng mangyari sa mga anak natin," Robredo said in her weekly radio show on Sunday.
(You know, this is something personal to me because he was the same age as my youngest daughter. That's why when these things happen, you will think that if it happened to him, it could also happen to our children.)
"Nakakalungkot ito. Ngayon, may mukha ito, itong si Kian. Parang sumasagi sa isip natin, ilan na ba iyong Kian na dumaan? Ilan pa ba iyong Kian na mangyayari? Kaya tayo naman, kapag ganito, tingin ko obligasyon natin ipahayag iyong ating pagkamuhi sa ganitong klaseng pangyayari," Robredo said.
(This is saddening. Now, Kian gives it a human face. How many Kians have we had? How many more Kians will follow? That's why when this happens, I think it is our obligation to express our condemnation.)
Robredo noted how Delos Santos' family and neighbors have lauded the young man's character. But Caloocan police maintained he was a drug suspect and that they only shot at him for self-defense.
The teenager's mother, Lorenza, works as a domestic helper abroad, while his father, Zaldy, runs a small sari-sari store.
"Nakakaawa kasi makikita mo, isa itong ordinaryong pamilya, katulad ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino na talagang naghihikahos na pagdaanan iyong lahat ng kahirapan mapag-aral lang iyong mga anak," she said.
(I commiserate with them because they are an ordinary family, just like other Filipino families that continue to struggle and endure hardships just to send their children to school.)
Robredo, who visited Delos Santos' wake early Sunday, said she has offered assistance to his family. During the visit, she was joined by human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier granted protection to some witnesses in the boy's slay and said these people are willing to face the Senate should there be an investigation.
Robredo has called for an "independent" investigation into the incident, saying the CCTV footage and witnesses contradict police claims. Senators have also pushed for an "impartial" probe into the killings after Delos Santos' death.
"[I]yong atin lang ninanais, sana magkaroon naman ng independent na imbestigasyon, kasi lalong — Alam mo iyon? Kapag hindi kampante iyong magulang sa klase ng imbestigasyon, hindi nabibigyan ng parang closure iyong kaso, at baka patuloy na nangyayari iyong ganitong nangyari kay Kian," she said.
(We only want an independent investigation. Because you know, when the parents are not at peace with the kind of investigation conducted, the case won't have its closure and the same thing that happened to Kian might go on.)
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.
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 also contradicted the police, saying it was the latter who handed Delos Santos a gun and ordered him to pull the trigger and run.
Robredo also reiterated her call for the Duterte administration to rethink its approach against illegal drugs, saying innocent people should not be victimized.
"Sang-ayon naman tayo na malaki talaga iyong suliranin sa iligal na droga, pero baka iyong pamamaraan, mayroong mas mabuti, na hindi iyong karapatang pantao na iyong nakasalalay, iyong mga inosente nabibiktima," she said.
(We agree that illegal drugs is a major problem, but maybe there's a better way to address it, in which human rights are not compromised and innocent people are not killed.) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org