Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday, August 20, said it has launched its own investigation into the death of Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos during a police operation.
Investigators from the CHR's National Capital Region (NCR) office have coordinated with the Delos Santos family, who have already given their permission for an autopsy.
"This case is so tragic and CHR has been doing its part," CHR EJK (extrajudicial) Task Force Head Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said in a statement. "We want to make sure that the case is attended [to] promptly and thoroughly."
Authorities claim that the policemen shot the 17-year-old in "self-defense," but CCTV footage minutes before he was killed showed no signs he fought back. (READ: Our son, Kian: A good, sweet boy)
Delos Santos is among at least 81 killed in recent police operations in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, and Manila, as well as the province of Bulacan. (READ: Drug raids toll hits 81 in 4 days)
It was the bloodiest week in the anti-drug and anti-crime campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
According to Gana, they will also investigate these deadly raids.
The latest deaths bring the total number of alleged drug personalities killed in legitimate operations to more than 3,500, according to data from the PNP.
Created under the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by state actors such as the military or police. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, on Saturday, August 19, also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the drug raid that killed Delos Santos.
Minors not spared
Delos Santos is not the first minor killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
According to data from the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center in January 2017, at least 31 people aged 18 years old and below were killed in either police operations or vigilante-style killings in his first year in office. (LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte's drug war)
"Malungkot po kami na naging kabilang sa rising death toll ang mga kabataan. Marami na ring mga bata, sa iba't ibang konteksto, ang napaslang, nasaktan, at nawalan ng magulang," CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said. "Malungkot po kami lalo pa't napaslang ng isang pulis ang batang pangarap din maging isang pulis."
(We are saddened that the rising death toll includes the youth. A lot of children, in different contexts, have also been slain, hurt, or have lost their parents. We are sad because police shot a child who once dreamt of becoming a police officer.)
The CHR has been urging the government to consider alternative ways of addressing the problem of illegal drugs.
"The approach should be harm reduction. Tulungan natin sila na maging productive citizens kaysa ma-vilify at ma-target," Gascon said. "Tulungan natin sila na matugunan ang problema nila sa droga na may pagkilala sa kanilang dignidad."
(The approach should be harm reduction. Let us help drug abuse victims become productive citizens instead of vilifying and targeting them. Let us help them solve their drug abuse problems by recognizing that they are humans with dignity, too.) – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.