THE reports on the anti-drug campaign all these weeks and months have been largely about numbers and statistics. There were 32 killed in Bulacan last Monday, followed by 24 in Manila, and 18 in the Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela) on Tuesday and Wednesday.
All these numbers, some with aliases, now have a human face in a 17-year-old Grade 11 student, Kian Loyd de los Santos, who was killed by Caloocan policemen under questionable circumstances. Police claimed the boy, like all the others killed in anti-drug operations in the country, had fired back and so was shot dead. Footage from CCTV, however, showed the boy was already well in custody and was being taken away by two men. Witnesses said the boy was just buying something at a store when the raiders came and a policeman forced a gun into his hand and told him to fire a shot and run.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the incident is “isolated” – it should be placed in context. The police are acting to stop something that is destroying the country, he said.
It must be said that the campaign on drugs is generally supported by the people. What seems to be the problem is that in carrying it out, some rogue policemen have set aside normal police rules of procedure. Some of the President’s own close allies in government have been moved to comment on the Caloocan boy’s killing. “It is worrisome, to say the least,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle led Church leaders – who have long kept their silence – when he said last Sunday: “We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the hopeless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives.” Earlier last week, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said that while he supports the administration’s war on illegal drugs, he was deeply concerned by the wave of killings. Up north, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said church bells all over the archdiocese will ring for 15 minutes at 8 p.m. hopefully to awaken the conscience of those people who have become numb and blind to what is happening around them.
Last Sunday night, four days after the De los Santos killing and the ensuing protests, the Caloocan police presented a witness who said he received drugs from the slain youth. The police also accused his father of being formerly involved in drugs. This development makes it even more important that an investigation be held to determine the facts of the case.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said a Senate resolution will condemn abuses that may have been committed by the police in the anti-drug operations. Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said there is enough evidence – the CCTV footage – to warrant an inquiry. Senate President Protempore Ralph Recto said PNP officials should be ready for questions from several senators at the coming budget hearings on almost P1 billion the PNP requested for Oplan Tokhang or Double Barrel Reloaded.
“Kian’s life was ended so dastardly that it has unified the nation in anger and grief. The national grief can only be saved by the truth,” Senator Recto said.