war on drugs

‘Autop-silip’: New findings cast doubt on Kian delos Santos’ earlier autopsies

Jairo Bolledo

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‘Autop-silip’: New findings cast doubt on Kian delos Santos’ earlier autopsies

NEW FINDINGS. Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun shares her later findings of the reexamination of Kian delos Santos' remains on February 2, 2023.

Jairo Bolledo/ Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun says Kian's body was not properly examined, as she reveals that she found another bullet in the drug war victim

MANILA, Philippines – The results of the latest examination on Kian delos Santos‘ remains cast doubts on the previous post-mortem examinations done by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), according to forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun.

During a press conference on Wednesday, February 2, Fortun noted at least two new findings after reexamining Delos Santos’ remains. Delos Santos was the 17-year-old boy from Caloocan City who was killed in 2017 by cops at the height of the bloody drug war of the Duterte administration.

Fortun revealed that the PNP, during the first autopsy, only made a superficial cut in the body. This means Delos Santos’ body was not properly examined because the police only made an external examination, the expert added.

May hiwa ka eh na hindi mo tinuloy, so bola-bola lang ang hiwa mo (You already made a small cut in the body but you did not push through, so it seems like you’re just fooling around),” she said.

Kunwari autopsy, hiniwa…That’s it. Ang babaw ng standards natin kaya wala tayong naso-solve (Not really an autopsy, the body was only cut…That’s it. We have very low standards, that’s why we hardly solve cases).”

Fortun doesn’t believe a post-mortem examination was done at all. PAO did another autopsy at Delos Santos’ residence which affirmed that the body only had a superficial cut.

Fortun said this is not the first time they observed an improper post-mortem examination.

Tawag ko ‘autop-silip,’ kasi nga sinilip lang (I call it ‘autop-silip,’ because they only peeked). And these are the instances where they make an incision, they open the ribs, but then the internal organs are still there,” Fortun told reporters in a chance interview.

Five years after his death, Delos Santos’ remains were exhumed by his family through the help of Project Arise led by activist-priest Father Flavie Villanueva. The reexamination was done after the exhumation.

New bullet found

In her findings, Fortun also revealed that she recovered another bullet from Kian’s body. Based on an X-ray, the forensic expert was able to identify the location and retrieve the bullet around Kian’s neck.

The bullet entered through Delos Santos’ back when he was shot by the cops. The PAO, in its examination, noted that the teen sustained two gunshot wounds in the ears and another one in the back. However, Fortun said the PAO did not investigate further so it was not able to retrieve the bullet.

Randy delos Santos, Delos Santos’ uncle, was also present during the press conference. Aside from recalling the night his nephew was killed by cops, he also hit the government’s claim that the country’s justice system is working.

May sistema pala, bakit hindi nagawa? (If there is a system, why was it not applied?),” Randy said.

Following the latest move of the International Criminal Court to continue the probe into drug war killings under former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine government still insists that the justice system is working – the same statement made by Duterte.

Even in high-profile drug war cases, justice has been elusive for the victims.

Since 2016, there have been only two significant convictions in the drug war cases: one for Delos Santos, where cops were convicted of murder in 2018, and another for Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, where cops were only convicted in 2022 of torture and planting of evidence.

Other findings 

Aside from Delos Santos, Fortun examined at least 73 other drug war victims whose remains were exhumed. Of the victims examined through the help of Project Arise, a majority or 27 of the cases were from Caloocan City. Delos Santos was killed in the same city. 

Fortun also shared the following findings:

  • Victims are between 17 to 62 years old (average age is 35 years old)
  • 72 are men, only two are women
  • 50 were single, 20 were married, while four had live-in partners
  • Only 41 of the victims previously underwent autopsy: 32 examined by the PNP, seven by the National Bureau of Investigation, one by the PNP and PAO, and the other one by the PNP and the University of the Philippines. Fortun says there are only nine copies of reports in her possession.

The forensic expert added that she discovered 11 cases of mis-certification. This means the drug war victims were said to have died of natural causes – based on their death certificate – but actually died because of homicide. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.