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Rody not backing down despite drug war outrage

A neighbor and friend of slain student Kian Loyd delos Santos refuses to leave his wake in Caloocan City yesterday. AP

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the outrage caused by the killing of a teenager who, many believe, was a victim of police brutality, President Duterte is not about to stop his war against illegal drugs, Malacañang said yesterday.

“The violent death of any Filipino is one death too many, especially that of Kian Loyd delos Santos,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement read by his assistant China Jocson over state-run Radyo Pilipinas.

While the Palace expressed regret over the incident, Abella gave assurances that an investigation is underway to determine if law enforcers abused their powers in relation to Delos Santos’ killing.

“This deeply regrettable incident has triggered deep public sentiment and challenges  those in law enforcement to be wary of the reckless exercise of power and authority,” he said.   

Abella noted that National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde has ordered the relief and investigation of all involved, and assured the public that mistakes and illegal acts will not be tolerated.

The police commander has also expressed their condolences to the bereaved family.

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“Having said this, the President, who continues to vigorously pursue the dismantling of drug apparatus, ensures that erring enforcers will be properly investigated,” he said.

“The task of building a nation worthy of all demands needs participation of all citizens, and this incident challenges the nation to be more vigilant,” Abella said. 

From 32 suspects killed in Bulacan last week, violence notably escalated in many police districts in Metro Manila. This came after Duterte praised the simultaneous police raids in Bulacan, saying that it is good news and it would be much better if the 32 in one day death toll is replicated daily to stop the drug menace in the country.

Not on watchlist

The family of the slain teenager cried foul at the claim of the Caloocan City police, stressing that neither Kian nor his father Zaldy was included in the community’s drug watchlist.

Bakit hindi sila maniwala sa barangay? Kung may name, ’matic na siya, doon sa barangay wala (Why can’t they just believe the barangay? If their names were included, it’s automatic, but it’s not in the barangay),” Lorenza, Kian’s mother, told reporters in between sobs yesterday.

Hindi na po ba sapat ang watchlist para masabing hindi nakalista ang asawa’t anak ko (Is the watchlist not enough to prove that my husband and child were not on the list)?” she added.

She admitted, however, that the illegal drug trade is rampant in their community, Brgy. 160, in Libis-Baesa.

“I even witnessed that, but we do not want to get involved because we know that we can get jailed... What then can be our future?” Lorenza said, stressing that they have no other means of making a living aside from selling garlic, rags and other items in their sari-sari store.

“Then you’ll accuse us of selling shabu?” she said, trying to control her emotions. “Ang sama-sama ninyo para paratangan kami ng ganyan (You are so evil to accuse us of that)!”

Workers in the Brgy. 160 office confirmed that neither Kian nor Zaldy was on the community drug watchlist.

Caloocan City police chief Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna earlier claimed Kian served as a drug runner for a certain “Nenen” who was said to be a relative, according to a text message exchange retrieved from a cellphone of an alias “Nono” arrested in the same operation where Kian was killed.

DOJ orders NBI probe

Meanwhile, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran to look into the death of Delos Santos by alleged members of the Caloocan City Police.

Aguirre signed Department Order No. 546 authorizing the NBI to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the teenager that has sparked widespread public outrage.

Aguirre said the NBI, through Gierran, “is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct investigation and case build-up over the death of 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos, who died during the anti-illegal drugs operation in Caloocan City on Aug. 16, 2017.”

Aguirre further instructed the NBI that, if given sufficient proof, the agency should file appropriate charges against those responsible for Delos Santos’ death.

Senate inquiry

Also yesterday, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the committee on public order and dangerous drugs headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson will conduct an inquiry into the recent spate of killings in the country, including that of Delos Santos.

Pimentel said that the large number of killings at the hands of the police reported daily in various parts of Metro Manila is alarming even without Delos Santos’ death.

In an interview over radio dwIZ, Pimentel said the police’s primary mission in its operations should be to apprehend suspects and not to kill them unless absolutely necessary.

“There is no death penalty in the Philippines so their mission should be to apprehend them only,” Pimentel said. 

He took to task the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) for failing to investigate these cases which, he said, is forcing the hand of the Senate to get involved in the issue. 

In a statement the other day, Lacson aired his reservations about conducting the inquiry right now when the IAS and the DOJ have yet to come out with their findings on the cases. 

Pimentel said, however, that if the IAS will not act, then the Senate will find the time to do their job for them. 

“So many senators have come out calling for an investigation so let us assume that we need to look into this. We will no longer wait for the IAS and the DOJ,” Pimentel said.

Still prevalent

Despite intensified police operations where 96 percent or about 1,638 of the 1,706 barangays in the NCR are affected, Albayalde yesterday admitted that illegal drugs is still prevalent in Metro Manila.

“I think we still have a big problem in illegal drugs,” he said in an interview over dzBB.

He added only 34 barangays have been completely cleared of illegal drugs.

Law enforcement agencies have recovered nearly 1,200 kilos of shabu in several operations in the past months.

Albayalde made the statement despite a recent surge in drug-related police killings where at least 80 suspects were killed in the province of Bulacan and parts of Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, the police, now facing controversy following the apparent summary execution of Delos Santos, expressed intention to talk to the Grade 11 student’s parents and possible witnesses in the coming days to gather more information about the incident.

“We have yet to talk to witnesses who have seen the boy,” he said.

Albayalde vowed that they would never allow police brutality and those involved would be punished to the full extent of the law.

“We will never allow and tolerate it,” he said. – With Ghio Ong, Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy, Emmanuel Tupas

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