Expert flags 'superficial' autopsies on body of Kian delos Santos

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Expert flags 'superficial' autopsies on body of Kian delos Santos
This November 29, 2018 photo shows the apartment tomb of Kian Delos Santos, a teenager killed in an anti-drug police operation in Caloocan City last year.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun said on Thursday that authorities only conducted a “superficial” and incomplete autopsy on the body of Kian delos Santos, who was killed in the bloody "war on drugs" of the government in 2017.

Fortun shared at a press conference that her re-autopsy of Delos Santos’ cadaver indicates that the Philippine National Police (PNP) did not conduct a proper autopsy and made conclusions based on a “superficial cut” of his body. 

Fortun questioned findings from the PNP’s autopsy indicating they found contents in his stomach. She asked in Filipino: “How did you see the contents of the stomach if you did not open the body? There’s a cut on the body that didn’t go all the way. So bola bola lang ang hiwa mo.” 

She added in the press conference streamed by Rappler: “It’s not really an autopsy. The body was just cut, that’s it. We have low standards, that’s why we can’t solve cases.”

Delos Santos’ killing in 2017, caught on video footage, triggered widespread protests against then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent campaign to end drugs. His case was the only known murder conviction against police who carried out the operations.

Fortun added that the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)’s second autopsy of Delos Santos’ remains was also not done correctly. 

Based on the documentation of PAO’s autopsy, authorities allegedly used a “randomly positioned protractor and probe" to examine the remains, Fortun said.

PAO also conducted the autopsy at Delos Santos’ residence – a red flag, according to the forensic pathologist. 

Fortun shared that she found a bullet in the remains, but she could not derive any meaningful findings without the gun.

“What do we do with (the bullet)? I don’t know. That's why I always say: I need help from the international forensics community,” Fortun added.

Also present at the press conference was Randy delos Santos, Kian’s uncle, who shared his frustration over the government’s statement that the justice system is working.

“If there is really a justice system, why is it not working?” he said. 


Fortun conducts examination of the exhumed remains of "war on drugs" victims to determine the manner and cause of their deaths. In these autopsies, she found 11 deaths “miscertified” as natural causes – higher than the seven she found in 2022.

The forensic expert detailed one unusual death certificate she studied as part of her work examining the cadavers of those who died during anti-illegal drug operations. 

One individual had two death certificates, Fortun said, with the second certificate declaring that the person "died by natural causes" even if they died by gunshot.

Most of the death certificates were also incomplete, Fortun added. “There are doctors that state ‘see back page’ as the cause of death. But I don’t have the back page,” Fortun said in Filipino. 

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court on January 27 gave its prosecutor the go-signal to continue investigating alleged crimes against humanity under the Duterte administration’s drug war.






  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with