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Kian buried amid calls to end drug killings

Mourners watch from atop apartment-type crypts as student Kian Loyd delos Santos, who was killed by policemen in an anti-drug operation, was laid to rest at the La Loma Cemetery in Quezon City yesterday.  ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO

MANILA, Philippines - Kian Loyd delos Santos was laid to rest yesterday at the La Loma Cemetery in Quezon City as thousands joined the funeral procession that called for justice for the 17-year-old student and an end to the drug war killings.

Delos Santos was dragged by plainclothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in Caloocan City before he was shot in the head and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses whose accounts appeared to be backed up by security video footage.

The death of the Grade 11 student has drawn attention to allegations by critics that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge the authorities deny.

Mourners, some of them wearing white shirts displaying the words “Justice for Kian,” held flowers and small flags and placards denouncing the killing, as the procession moved out of Delos Santos’ home in Libis Baesa, Caloocan City to the La Loma Cemetery.

Activists came in groups to express their support and sympathy.

Some people whose relatives were also killed by police joined calls to stop the summary killings under the war against drugs.

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“I came to support the family. I want justice for Kian and all victims, including my son,” said Katherine David, whose 21-year-old son was shot dead by police with two other men in January.

Delos Santos’ flower-draped coffin passed slowly through narrow streets on a flat-bed truck with two black and red colored tarpaulins containing the words “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the killings” displayed on each side.

The cortege made a brief stop in front of the Caloocan police community precinct where three police officers involved in the killing of Delos Santos were assigned before proceeding to the Sta. Quiteria Church where the funeral mass was held.

The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) led the protesters shouting “Justice for Kian, justice for all!” in front of the police precinct.

“The thousands who lined the streets and joined the funeral march of Kian delos Santos is a strong protest against Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and the poor,” the group said in a statement.

“It is a sign that the people have had enough and are indignant over the impunity that prevails today. We call for accountability of the police officers directly involved in the killings as well as accountability of the commander-in-chief who sanctioned the killings.”

At the funeral mass, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David condemned the killing of Delos Santos as well as other victims of summary executions.

He said Delos Santos was not the only victim of the war on drugs as he mentioned by name the others who also fell victim to suspected vigilante groups carrying out the killings for the police.

“Most of the families did not file cases… To whom would they charge if the suspects are wearing bonnets?” David remarked.

“Most of them, even if they witnessed that the victims were shot defenselessly, would be recorded on police reports that they fought back. Most of the witnesses would not dare testify for fear that they could be the next victims. Stop the killings, start healing.”

David comforted the grieving parents during his homily.

“Not only your family, but the heavens also cried for you early this morning,” David said.

Aling Lorenza and Mang Saldy, you are not alone. With you are parents who also lost their children.”

Saldy thanked the crowd who joined them in mourning their loss. “I have nothing else to wish for but for Kian to get justice and for his killers to pay for what they did,” he said in Filipino.

He also hoped that his son’s fate would not happen to others.

Protesters against human rights violations joined the funeral procession for Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos yesterday in Caloocan City. They demanded justice for Delos Santos, who was slain in a drug operation last week. Boy Santos

“So that they would never feel how to lose a child as good as Kian,” he said.

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta assisted the family during the funeral procession.

Among those who attended were former Education secretary Armin Luistro and Fr. Robert Reyes, the “running priest” who concelebrated the funeral mass with David.

David believes the response to Delos Santos’ killing marks a turning point in the opposition to the drug war.

A member of Rise Up, a Manila-based coalition of church-related groups opposing the drug war, said families of about 20 victims joined the funeral procession.

“There’s been a big change. Before, police could kill and nobody paid attention. Now people are starting to show support and sympathy,” she said.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) issued a statement denouncing the killing of Delos Santos.

“We denounce in the strongest terms all unjust slayings and the rising culture of senseless killing and impunity that, to our very deep regret, have accompanied from its very inception the President’s well-intentioned campaign against illegal drugs,” PCEC national director Bishop Noel Pantoja said.

Outcry

PAO led the Delos Santos family in filing charges of murder and torture against the policemen involved in the killing.

Police claimed Delos Santos tried to flee when he saw the lawmen approaching him during a drug sting in his neighborhood on Aug. 16.

Policemen gave chase but Delos Santos allegedly pulled out a handgun and opened fire, triggering a brief firefight.

Delos Santos was killed during the exchange of fire, according to police who added Delos Santos had a .45 automatic and two sachets of shabu.

His relatives, however, disputed the police claims, saying the gun and the drugs were planted.

The relatives showed a barangay security video showing two men dragging Delos Santos.

Witnesses said the policemen handed the handgun to Delos Santos and ordered him to run before shooting him down.

The three policemen involved – PO3 Arnel Oares, and PO1s Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz – were charged with murder and torture of a minor before the Department of Justice on Friday.

Their superior, Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo, commander of the Police Community Precinct 7 of Caloocan City, was included in the charges under the principle of command responsibility.

The complaint followed at least two cases filed last year against police over President Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands, outraged human rights groups and alarmed Western governments.

The Unity of Child Rights Advocates Against Inhumane Treatment and Neglect of Children (UNCHAIN Children) said more than 30 children have already died in connection with Duterte’s drug war.

Duterte has expressed extraordinary support for police enforcing his crackdown, promising to pardon them if they are convicted to keep them out of jail.

Amid the growing outcry, however, Duterte ordered the arrest of the policemen linked to the killing of Delos Santos.

Malacañang gave assurance that the proper authorities would investigate the killing of Delos Santos.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella on Friday said Duterte has ordered an investigation into the killing.

He said the killing of Delos Santos is a wake up call for the police and other state agencies to review and reform their law enforcement procedures. – With Janvic Mateo, Emmanuel Tupas, Rhodina Villanueva, Reuters

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