MANILA — Outrage continues over the alarmingly exponential death toll of the government’s war on drugs, and the rising impunity of the Philippine National Police, following released barangay-CCTV footage that tells a different story from police reports.
Police documents state that on the evening of 16 August 2016, an anti-illegal drugs operation in Caloocan City resulted in the death of 17-year-old student Kian Loyd Delos Santos, who allegedly drew a weapon at the authorities first. The minor was said to have “directly shot” at the police, prompting Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares—who was part of a ten-man team—to fire back. The police report stated that Oares shot the student “to prevent and repel the unlawful aggression, as their lives were in imminent danger.”
Two small sachets of what is suspected to be shabu, one .45 caliber gun, and four fired cartridge cases were recovered by the authorities at the scene.
CCTV footage from the barangay, however, revealed Kian’s body being dragged to the spot where his body would later be reported to have been found.
Witnesses have reported to the media that the teenager did not have a firearm and police officers at the scene handed him a gun, asked him to fire the weapon, and run.
The footage has been released to the media and has incited the furor of citizens both online and offline, the condemnation of human rights watch groups, and has prompted the Senate to announce an investigation on the rash of killings.
Authorities have stated that Kian’s death was an isolated case.
Kian was among twelve alleged suspects killed in police operations in Caloocan City—which is only part of what officials have tagged as a “one-time, big-time” operation to scour the streets of Metro Manila and adjoining cities for citizens they suspect to be involved in the drug war.
Over two hundred suspects have been taken into custody.
A total of 80 people have died in the course of three days.
Though the police officers involved in the death of Kian have been administratively relieved of their positions, PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa defended the force, insisting that the PNP is only doing its job. He insisted that the high number of arrests were proof that the police do not kill suspects unless they pose a threat, and that the rising death toll was just a result of the escalation of the campaign against the country’s illegal-drugs problem.
Dela Rosa said that the PNP will continue to pursue the drug war at the same pace despite the criticism it has been drawing: “Ang instruction ni Pangulo is very clear naman: Continue the war on drugs. Wala siyang specific instruction na ‘pumatay kayo ng marami.’ Ako rin walang instruction sa mga pulis na ‘mas maraming mamatay mas masaya ako.’ Ang instruction ko sa kanila is paigtingin yung kampanya ninyo sa droga.”
President Rodrigo Duterte commented on the death toll and commended the police force this week. Reuters reports: “Duterte indicated this week that the escalation had his blessing, saying it was good that 32 criminals had been killed in a province north of Manila and adding: ‘Let’s kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country.’ On Thursday, he said he would not just pardon police officers who killed drug offenders during the anti-narcotics campaign, but also promote them.”