Hontiveros: DOJ, PAO motives for custody of Kian slay witnesses questionable

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros slammed the Department of Justice and the Public Attorney’s Office for wanting to take in the witnesses in the killing of 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos in an anti-drug raid in Caloocan.

Hontiveros questioned the motives of the agencies deemed to be supportive of the administration’s bloody drug war.

“Ako lamang ay nagugulat sa biglang pangyayari. Mukhang may mga pwersang gumagalaw para kunin ang mga testigo, i-undermine ang kaso at limitahan ang accountability sa panig lamang ng mga pulis,” Hontiveros said in a press conference on Thursday, August 24. (I'm just surprised at the unexpected events. It looks like there are forces moving to take control of the witnesses, undermine the case and limit accountability on the part of the police.)

Hontiveros said she took in 3 witnesses – two of whom are minor – after their families and the Delos Santos family requested for protection, following threats they received. She also said the guardians of the two minors even signed consent forms entrusting them to the senator’s office.

The senator said the 3 would face the Senate probe on Thursday and "would only be telling the truth."

PAO has slammed Hontiveros for refusing to turn over witnesses to its care. It said they have been tasked by the family to handle the case and should have authority over the witnesses. 

“Kami ang ni-request na tumulong sa imbestigasyon. May anti-torture law, may power ang PAO with CHR, NBI, DOJ, PNP, bakit ayaw n'ya ipagtiwala sa amin? Di ba kami katiwa-tiwala? Wala na kaming kailangan patunayan sa kanya,” PAO chief Persida Acosta said in a report on GMA News

(We were requested to help in the investigation. There is an anti-torture law, PAO has power with CHR, NBI, DOJ, PNP, why doesn't she want to entrust them with us. Aren't we trustworthy? We have nothing else to prove to her.)

DOJ, PAO could not be trusted

But the senator said the two agencies could not be trusted to protect the witnesses.

She pointed out that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II himself claimed that the death of Delos Santos was blown out of proportion by the media. (READ: Aguirre: Kian case overblown, any war has collateral damage)

She also questioned Aguirre’s capacity to protect witnesses after he himself downgraded the murder charges against the police who killed the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa inside jail.

“Nakakasulasok naman ang testamento ng DOJ na 'blown out of proportion' ang kaso ni Kian lalo na at gusto nila isailalim ang mga testigo sa kanilang witness protection program. Paano nila poprotektahan ang mga testigo kung sila mismo ay hindi naniniwala sa kaso?" the senator asked. (The DOJ's testimony about Kian's case being blown out of proportion is repulsive, especially since they want the witnesses under their witness protection program. How will they protect the witnesses if they themselves do not believe in the case?)

Hontiveros also expressed alarm over PAO’s statement insisting there are no extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration, when Delos Santos’ death is a clear example, she added.

“Ako ay nababahala sa pahayag ng PAO ng wala daw extrajudicial killings sa ilalim ni Pangulong Duterte. Nakakabahala ito lalo na at sila ang humahawak sa kaso ni Kian, na by all indications points to a clear case of extrajudicial killing,” she said. (I am disturbed by PAO's declaration that there are no extrajudicial killings under President Duterte. This is very disturbing especially since they are the ones handling the case of Kian, which by all indications, points to a clear case of extrajudicial killing.)

Hontiveros maintained all those involved in the killing of the teenager should be held accountable – from the police to President Rodrigo Duterte, who she said “inspired and encouraged the culture of killing and impunity.” – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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