The mutilated body of a missing 14-year-old boy has been found two weeks after he and a friend were allegedly picked up by officers enforcing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s sweeping war on drugs, police said Wednesday.
The body of Reynaldo de Guzman was discovered Tuesday in northern Gapan City, bearing multiple stab wounds and with his head wrapped in packing tape, police said.
“The parents had gone to the area. They identified that the body was indeed Reynaldo de Guzman’s,” local police chief Peter Madria said.
The teenager’s friend, university student Carl Arnaiz, 19, was found dead in Manila last week, 10 days after both youths were reported missing. Police claimed Arnaiz had held up a taxi and fought it out with officers, and that he had a gun and methamphetamines.
On Aug. 18, the two told their parents that they were going out to buy food. But they never returned to their homes in suburban Rizal province, east of Manila.
An autopsy revealed Arnaiz was gunned down in a similar fashion to Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, whose killing last month provoked an outpouring of sympathy and anger over Duterte’s war on drugs.
Delos Santos was allegedly forcibly taken by policemen and shot at close range while kneeling down. His arrest was caught by a closed-circuit television camera and the footage belied police accounts of a shoot-out.
The national police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But on Tuesday Director Gen. Ronald dela Rosa denied that there was a departmental policy to kill innocent people.
“It is not correct to say that there is a policy sanctioning widespread killing,” he said in testimony before a Senate inquiry.
‘Pure and simple murder of a child’
Sen. Risa Hontiveros described de Guzman’s brutal death as a “vile, gruesome, barbaric act.”
“Reynaldo, at the tender age of 14, did nothing to deserve such a fate. To be stabbed 31 times is no accident. It is the pure and simple murder of a child,” she said.
“I hope this removes any doubt and settles with finality any discussion of whether or not there is a pattern and policy of killings under the Duterte government,” she said.
She called on Duterte to halt his bloody war on narcotics, under which “there is a pattern of killing young and poor people.”
“There is a policy to kill,” she said, as she called on the public to stand up and hold the year-old Duterte administration accountable for abuses and deaths logged in his anti-narcotics campaign.
“To President Duterte and all the EJK (extrajudicial killing) deniers, here is your pattern. Here is the result of your policy,” she said.
The president’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment, although Duterte’s office said he met with the Arnaiz family Wednesday and, during the brief meeting, he promised them justice would be served.
Duterte “guaranteed a thorough and impartial investigation,” the presidential palace said in a statement, adding there would “be no whitewash” in the case.
Opposition leader Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on Duterte to end his war on drugs, noting many of the 8,000 alleged pushers and addicts slain so far were young and poor people.
“Many of us parents are worried about these murders,” he said in a statement. “Only the president can stop the war on drugs and the killings of the innocent by rogue members of the police force.”
In August, police conducted “one-time, big time” operations across Manila and nearby suburbs, killing nearly 100 suspects including two boys and a 19-year-old.
Their deaths came after 15 people were killed by police in the south last month, including a mayor named on a list of 150 politicians, judges, police and military officers whom Duterte had said were involved in the drug trade.
Despite publicly naming the officials, the president has offered no proof of their involvement.
On Wednesday, Duterte said he would always protect troops and the police from prosecution. “But always, there has to be the element of the performance of duty,” he said. “And you do not kill defenseless persons.”
He said he would pursue the cases against police implicated in the killings and, “if need be, they should go to jail.”
The statement appeared to be a calculated move to distance himself from the bloodshed. Last month, reacting to the first wave of the killings, he praised the police for doing what he said was a good job.