“Collateral Damage”: 17-Year Old Killed in Anti-Drug Operations in Manila

More than a year into the drug war waded by the tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte, the police said that the Philippines saw her deadliest week so far with 59 suspected drug addicts killed in three days, including a 17-year old senior high school student in Manila.

Reports showed that 32 people in Bulacan Province, some 50 km north of Manila, and 27 people in Manila were shot in “one-time, big-time” raids conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) from Monday night to Wednesday night.

One of the victims of the anti-drug campaign was Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a 17-year old 11th grader from Caloocan City, located some 10 km north of Manila, last seen August 15th.

According to the spot report from Caloocan City Police, they were conducting their “Oplan Galugad” operations when Kian saw them and ran away. They ran after him, leading Kian to allegedly draw his gun and shoot at them, which caused PO3 Arnel Oares to retaliate and kill him instantly.

However, CCTV footage revealed that two of the four cops operating that night dragged Kian with a bag over his head to the spot where he got killed.

Two witnesses also accounted that they saw the cops take Kian and beat him up. The two followed them and saw the cops handing a gun to the minor who was visibly shaking when he asked them what he was going to do with it. They said that the police asked him to “Hawakan mo! Iputok mo! Tumakbo ka! (Hold it. Shoot it! Run!) Panicking, Kian ran away and according to the two, that was when PO3 Oares gunned him down.

The spot report claimed that Kian was allegedly carrying two sachets of shabu (ecstasy) and a caliber .45 in his left hand. However, his father, Saldy Delos Santos, refuted this because Kian was right-handed.

“Pinalaki ng maayos ang anak ko, tapos papatayin lang nila. Nag-aaral ng mabuti,” Saldy said, noting that Kian was out that night because he was closing their store, which his wife, an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the Middle East, entrusted them with.

My son was raised right, and they’re just going to kill him. He studied well. -Saldy Delos Santos

Saldy also questioned the validity of the police’s claims, asking how his son could’ve shot at them if witnesses saw that he didn’t even have a gun in his waistband when they dragged him.

Furthermore, Kian’s uncle, Randy Delos Santos, explained that the senior high school student wanted to become a police officer in the future. “Natuldukan nila yung pangarap ng bata,” he added. (They ended the kid’s dream.)

Meanwhile, PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa apologized to the victim’s family for their loss, but defended that he would rather see his policemen alive than dead so that they can continue Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“Masakit talaga sa pamilya na mamatayan ka. (It’s really painful for a family when a relative dies.) We understand their feeling. We are very sorry for what happened,” he initially stated, adding that “We’d rather buhay yung pulis ko kesa patay yung pulis ko. (We’d rather my policemen be alive than dead.)

He further defended the recent string of deaths by saying that “Nagtatrabaho yung pulis niyo. Hindi natutulog. Nagtatrabaho kaya nangyari yun.” (Your policemen are working. Not sleeping. They are doing their job, that’s why it happened.)

Moreover, President Duterte also justified the killings in the founding anniversary celebration of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at Malacañang Palace on Wednesday afternoon, stating that “Maganda yun. (That’s good.) Makapatay lang tayo ng another 32 every day (if we kill another 32 people every day maybe we can fix what ails this country.)

Notably, a few days after winning the elections in May of last year, the president gave security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders in the event of a drug bust wherein the suspected seller or user would use violence.

Duterte also admitted in an interview with ABS-CBN in October that children ended up being “collateral damage” of his drug war. “I would admit there were killings that were really unintended, like the children who were caught in a crossfire. Collateral damage, and I’m sorry,” he said.

Acting on their commander-in-chief’s orders, the four policemen decided to shoot Kian, as well as the other 58 victims of extra judicial killings, on the spot, instead of arresting him.

The other three cops who were involved in Kian’s death are Police Chief Inspector Amor Cerilo, PO1 Jeremiah Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz. According to National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde, the four cops were relieved of their duties on Friday, two days after Kian was killed.

Kian’s unlawful death sparked outrage from several Filipinos online, calling on President Duterte and the police for their blatant disregard of due process for people suspected of using or selling drugs through the hashtag #JusticeForKian.

Police officials claim that about 3,000 drug personalities have been killed in the anti-illegal drugs campaign. However, previous reports have placed the death toll at around 9,000 people.

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Carey Baisas
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Carey is a 15-year old science journalism champion in the Philippines who ironically despises Chemistry.

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