Philippine Leader Meets Parents of Teen Slain in Drug Raid

Felipe Villamor
Manila
2017-08-28
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170828-PH-parents-1000 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) hugs Lorenza delos Santos, the mother of a 17-year-old boy who was killed by police in an anti-drug raid, as her husband Saldy looks on during a meeting in Manila, Aug. 28, 2017.
Presidential Photo/Malacanang Palace/Ace Morandante

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met Monday with the parents of a 17-year-old boy whose death at the hands of police provoked a massive protest against the government’s drug war, and he assured them there would be justice for their son.

Teenager Kian Loyd delos Santos was among 96 drug suspects killed by police nearly two weeks ago in its “one time, big time” anti-drug operations in Manila and nearby suburbs. The raids were part of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that has claimed the lives of thousands of suspects through extra-judicial killings and which, rights activists say, have been carried out with impunity.

Photographs released by the presidential palace showed the boy’s mother embracing Duterte as the father looked on.

“During the meeting, the president reassured (the couple) that there will be no interference in the case, citing that only due process will prevail and that the handling of the case will be fair,” the presidential palace said.

Shortly after the couple’s son was killed, Duterte egged police to kill more drug suspects and he guaranteed them protection from prosecution.

The police claimed that Kian was shot because he fought it out with the officers. Photos provided by investigators showed him with a gun in his left hand, although the teenager was right-handed.

A closed-circuit television camera also filmed policemen taking the boy away moments before he was killed, contrary to police accounts that he had pulled a gun on officers.

The government’s public prosecutor has filed murder charges against three policemen and their superior at the justice department, which is headed by Vitaliano Aguirre, a staunch ally of Duterte.

Yellow and white flowers

The boy’s funeral on Saturday drew thousands of Filipinos to the streets. His coffin, decked with yellow and white flowers, was carried in an open truck as it slowly wound its way to a cemetery under a drizzle of rain.

A popular priest, Robert Reyes, said the march reflected the people’s frustration at the violence, and noted that many of the more than 8,000 killed so far were “poor and helpless” random drug addicts.
“I think this happened because the victim is poor. Would these policemen burst into gated villages and rich enclaves? I don’t think so,” he said as he led the funeral march Saturday.

Thousands of people take part in a funeral procession for Kian Loyd delos Santos, a Filipino teenager who was killed during an anti-drug operation by police in the Manila area, Aug. 26, 2017. [Linus Escandor/BenarNews]

‘Free to kill the idiots’

Just before Duterte met with the parents on Monday, he gave a speech to mark the country’s National Heroes Day celebration during which he praised Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, a police official who has been leading the bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Espenido led a raid in southern Ozamiz city last month that left 15 people dead, including local mayor Reynaldo Parojinog who had been publicly named by Duterte as a drug kingpin among a list of 150 judges, politicians and police and military officers suspected of involvement in the drug trade.

Two other mayors also on that list were gunned down earlier. One of them was inside a jail cell when he was killed during a raid by police.

Espenido, who was also the head of local police in Leyte province when the shooting occurred, has asked to be moved to central Iloilo city, whose mayor Jed Mabilog, was also named by Duterte on his list of drug suspects.

“You asked for the assignment in Leyte, the mayor was slain there. You asked for another assignment in Ozamiz, and the mayor there was Parojinog,” Duterte said to laughter from the crowd. “Now you want to be assigned in Iloilo, where Mabilog has been identified as a protector. Will he live?”

He said Epenido was doing the Philippines a favor, and that he would support him in his campaign.

“Do not worry. Just follow the rules of engagement,” Duterte said.

Referring to drug suspects, he told Espenido that he was “free to kill the idiots” if they resisted arrest and became violent, thereby endangering the lives of policemen.

“He’s a dedicated man. He knows his law. So he should replicate his exploits in other parts of the country. He wants to be assigned in Iloilo, I will assign him there,” Duterte said of Espenido.

Mark Navales in Cotabato, Philippines contributed to this report.

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