Philippine Court Orders Arrests for 3 Cops in Teen’s High-Profile Killing

Karl Romano
Dagupan, Philippines
180207-PH-suspect-1000.jpg Philippine police place handcuffs on drug suspect Wilberto Castro during a raid on his house in Dagupan City, north of Manila, Jan. 23, 2018.
Karl Roman/BenarNews

A Philippine court issued arrest warrants Wednesday for three police officers over the killing of a 17-year-old student in a raid last year that was part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, which has left thousands dead.

Police would arrest the accused officers, Arnel Oares, Jerwin Cruz and Jeremias Pareda, and send them to jail as soon as they received the court’s orders, National Police spokesman Chief Supt. John Bulalacao said.

“They will be transferred. We will comply with the arrest order,” Bulalacao said.

The three policemen would become the first Philippine officers facing potential murder charges under the Duterte administration’s controversial crackdown on illegal narcotics.

The three are accused of killing student Kian Loyd delos Santos after an informant erroneously identified the boy as a drug pusher. The warrants were issued by a regional trial court in Manila’s northern suburb of Caloocan City, where the incident happened.

The three officers are currently on restricted duty at the regional headquarters south of Manila.

Witnesses had described seeing them dragging delos Santos away and finding his body near a pigsty, contradicting the official police version that the boy had provoked a fatal shootout by pulling a gun on the officers.

News of delos Santos’ death led to widespread public anger led by the Catholic Church, which turned his funeral march into a protest action to denounce Duterte’s drug war. According to police, 4,014 suspects were killed in counter-narcotics operations between June 2016, when Duterte took office, and December 2017. But international and local rights groups have put the death toll at about three times that number.

Following the death of delos Santos, two other teenagers were allegedly killed by police in similar circumstances, putting further pressure on Duterte’s government.

Mounting public anger subsequently forced the president to remove the police from a frontline role in the anti-drug operations. Rights groups had hailed the decision, only to see Duterte reinstating the national police in December.

Rights groups also expressed apprehension over the arrest warrants, pointing to how Duterte previously told police officers on several occasions that they had nothing to fear because they were only carrying out his orders. He had vowed to pardon officers who would be convicted.

Last week, church officials called on the national police to do away with “theatrics” and urged the department instead to stop the bloodletting.

“They need not exaggerate it,” the official news service of the Philippine church quoted Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, as saying.

This came after the police in eastern Manila said they would carry out their anti-drug raids with rosaries and bibles, in hopes that if suspects saw officers carrying those religious items, they would surrender peacefully.

Instead of publicity stunts, the church said, the police should strictly adhere to standard operating guidelines and arrest suspects, instead of gunning them down.

Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.


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