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  • By Diana G Mendoza

Death of teen boy in drug war ignites anger

Manila – When 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos was fatally shot in yet the deadliest night in the Philippine government's drug war on August 18, 2017 where 32 alleged drug pushers, users, runners and couriers were killed, Filipinos erupted in anger on social media.

Police said Kian had fired a gun at policemen, who in turn fired back in self-defense, but CCTV footage showed him not fighting back but was dragged by two men before his death. In a 24-hour period from 7am on August 17 to 7 am August 18, police mounted the simultaneous operations called "one time big time" in the cities of Caloocan and Manila and the province of Bulacan, a suburb.

President Rodrigo Duterte praised the recent killing of 32 drug suspects in a 24-hour police crackdown, the highest death toll in a single day in his administration's anti-drug war.

"That's beautiful. If we can only kill 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country," Duterte told media. His office said the killing of Kian was an isolated incident.

As netizens expressed their anger, Duterte's allies in the Senate issued a statement questioning the alarming spate of killings. Opposition senators intensified their calls for thorough investigations. Catholic bishops aired a straightforward statement, with one archbishop promising to peal the bells in his district of Lingayen-Pangasinan every 8 pm for 15 minutes for the victims of the bloody drug war.


"That's beautiful. If we can only kill 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country," Duterte told media. His office said the killing of Kian was an isolated incident.


The Department of Education for the first time issued a statement strongly condemning the shooting of Kian, a Grade 11 student of Our Lady of Lourdes Senior High School in Valenzuela, by policemen from neighboring Caloocan City, and called for an impartial investigation on the incident.

"We support President Duterte's directive to uphold the rule of law, and to put to jail those who will be found responsible for the student's death. While we acknowledge that law enforcement is an important aspect in the government's comprehensive efforts to battle illegal drugs, ensuring accuracy of information and upholding the rule of law should not be compromised," their statement said. "The Department denounces all forms of violence against our students, teachers, and personnel."

And as the government struggled to explain Kian's death, and the police produced what they claimed was proof that the teenage boy, who pleaded for his life saying "Please stop. I have a test tomorrow," as he was dragged and later shot to death, the killing of innocent minors and young people once again ignited national concern.

Nationwide protests broke out in Manila and key cities on August 21, the death anniversary of Benigno Aquino Jr., the opposition leader against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Protesters saw the date as an appropriate time to reignite national sentiments against a rising authoritarian president.

The protests started with calls on social media using the hashtag #JusticeforKian, which rose up the ranks of Twitter's top Philippine trends, along with the phrase "Kian delos Santos."

The largest gathering was at the People Power Monument, site of the 1986 revolution that toppled Marcos. The highly emotional tone of the protests also roused people to visit Kian and his family during his wake even if they were strangers. Hundreds also joined his funeral.

Kian was not the first young person to be killed in the drug war. For as long as Duterte maintains his drug watch list and he continues to encourage the police to kill. According to police statistics, more than 3,000 suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte became president on June 30, 2016, but activists put the number at over 12,000.

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