Philippines: Duterte Promises Speedy, Truthful Probe into Teen’s Death

Linus Escandor
170829-KIAN-620.jpg President Rodrigo Duterte promises Lorenza delos Santos, the mother of a 17-year-old boy killed by police in an anti-drug crackdown, that justice will be served, Aug. 28, 2017.
Presidential Photo/Malacañang Palace/Ace Morandante

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pledged a speedy and truthful investigation into the killing of a teenager by police carrying out his anti-drug crackdown, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Duterte, whose sweeping anti-drug campaign was blamed for the death of Kian Loyd delos Santos about two weeks ago, met Monday with the 17-year old’s parents and assured them justice would be served.

The boy was among almost 100 people killed in the “one time, big time” police operations. Video captured by a closed-circuit television (CCTV) seems to contradict police claims the boy pulled a gun, forcing them to fire back and instantly kill him.

A subsequent senate inquiry established that the boy was shot at close range, while apparently kneeling down.

Delos Santo’s death triggered outrage across the predominantly Catholic nation and thousands joined his funeral march last weekend. It also galvanized the opposition against Duterte’s crackdown in which more than 8,000 alleged addicts and dealers were either killed by police or vigilantes.

Rights groups have questioned police methods and Duterte’s calls to gun down suspects who were said to be fighting arrest. The president also vowed to protect police from prosecution.

The boy’s death came shortly after police killed 15 people in the south, including a mayor included on a list of 150 politicians, judges, police and military officers Duterte said were involved in the drug trade. Despite publicly naming the officials, Duterte has offered no proof of their involvement.

“We expect speedy and truthful investigations on the killing of Kian delos Santos as pledged by the president to his parents and the nation,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Tuesday.

He said the public should let the justice department carry out its investigation with “impartiality, integrity and dispatch.”

“Other agencies are welcome to undertake their own probes as mandated by the law,” Abella said.

Ironically, the justice department is headed by Duterte’s fraternity brother, Vitaliano Aguirre, who has cast doubt on the CCTV footage of a boy being carried away by officers.

On Tuesday, a group of university law students filed a petition with the justice department calling on Aguirre to recuse himself from the investigation into the boy’s death.

The students from four universities around Manila said Aguirre had “already prejudged the case” following his statements that the boy’s death was “blown out of proportion” and the witnesses may have been “brainwashed.”

“It is our view that the DOJ Secretary’s involvement in the case of Kian de los Santos is detrimental to having a thorough and impartial investigation of the case,” said one of the petitioners, Kathleen Benavidez of the University of the Philippines Law School.

Aguirre’s remarks at the senate inquiry were “uninformed or ill-motivated” the group said in a statement.

“Aguirre will defend Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign to death,” it added. “Having Aguirre’s hand into the case will end with having no justice for Kian at all.”

Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.


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