The persistence of the parents of Kian Loyd de los Santos to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte and seek justice for their 17-year old son, in the belief he was senselessly and unjustly killed by the three police officers in an anti-drug operation, has paid off.
It was an act of sheer desperation, on one hand, and a steely resolve to bring up their case to the highest official of the land, on the other – a high-profile crime that played out on live television and burned newspaper headlines.
In so doing, the de los Santoses unwittingly caused the slow wheels of justice in this country to turn a little faster and they may have helped restore the people’s faith in the Philippine judicial and penal system, that it could work not just for the rich but also for the poor.
On Monday, the President granted the grieving couple an audience in Malacañang, promising them due process to resolve what the Public Attorney’s Office called the “murder” of their son, a high school student, in the hands of three members of the Caloocan City police force on August 16.
The meeting sends the message to the men and women in uniform that they will have to account for “unlawful killings,” which Duterte said in a speech on National Heroes Day, are “not allowed” under his administration.
Duterte had to add that Kian’s death would not stop the government from cracking down on traders of shabu and other illegal drugs in the country. He said again that under the anti-drug campaign, the police could invoke self-defense, especially if drug suspects resisted arrest by shooting it out with the lawmen, an affirmation of the original parameters of the crackdown.
Malacañang spokesman Ernesto Abella on Tuesday said the meeting with Kian’s parents was also not meant to deflect he accusations of “extrajudicial killings” made by UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, but to give assurances to the couple that “justice will be fully served.”
By agreeing to meet with the grieving victim’s parents and giving the mother a hug, Duterte showed the President’s soft side, explaining to the couple why he could not visit Kian’s wake as he wanted first to know the results of the investigation.
Critics who believe that the drug-related killings are state-sanctioned, however, have blamed Kian’s parents for playing into the hands of Duterte’s PR defenders, by allowing themselves to be photographed for propaganda purposes – with the hug and the ‘fist bump’ signature gesture of the President.
Still, other people see from the hug and the fist bump the desperation and vulnerability of the victim’s parents, gaining for them public sympathy in the process, and thus, raising expectations that indeed, justice will be served in Kian’s case in the end.
The mother, Lorenza, urged those who have vested political interests to stop using the issue of her son’s death for their purposes.
The de los Santoses are channeling their grief into productive efforts to find justice for their son, but we may also be the ultimate beneficiary of their simple act of courage.