SEN. Risa Hontiveros has taken custody of witnesses to the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd de los Santos after receiving information on supposed threats to their safety.
Hontiveros said the primary concern of her office was to ensure the safety of the witnesses and the family of de los Santos, to help bring justice to the victim.
The senator, however, declined to elaborate on plans for the witnesses, such as whether they would appear before a Senate inquiry.
Hontiveros said the witnesses were willing to tell the truth and would wait for the formal invitation from the Senate before deciding on attending the hearing.
“The protection provided to the family will be extended to the key witnesses who will help in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the extrajudicial killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos,” she added.
Malacañang earlier said that the death of de los Santos, a Grade 11 student, was an isolated case.
Hontiveros, however, rejected this, saying that number of deaths in the brutal war on drugs where even children were not spared would disprove that it is an isolated case.
The senators said Kian’s parents told her that the teen had wanted to become a policeman.
“He was really determined to take criminology,” Hontiveros said.
She added that the case of de los Santos is an indictment on the government’s war on drugs that seems to focus only on poor people who have no means of protecting themselves.
Hontiveros said the bloody campaign against illegal drugs has failed to show that it was able to attain its objectives which is to lessen the number of drug dependents in the country.
“Hindi natin alam kung ilan sa walo hanggang labindalawang libo ay katulad ni Kian. Hindi ba matagal na dapat na nag-dalawang isip at hininto ito, ibinago ang stratehiya.(We don’t know how many in the 8,000 to 12,000 who were killed in the drug war were like Kian. It should have made the government think twice, stop the drive and change strategy),” she added.
The senator said the campaign against illegal drugs must not depend on law enforcement alone because it has been proven in other countries that the most effective way to fight the drug menace is through public health, law enforcement and an effective justice system.
To bolster their claim that De los Santos was really into the drug trade, police on Sunday presented another suspect who said he had transacted with the teenager.
Renato Loberas or “Lando” told reporters he had been buying illegal drugs from De los Santos.
Loberas claimed De los Santos worked for a certain “Neneng,” the drug source.
He said the boy served as Neneng’s “runner.” He added that he did not talk to the courier but only gave him the payment after getting the drugs.
He also claimed the victim was not the person being dragged by policemen as shown in the CCTV footage.
The Caloocan City police chief, Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna, was relieved of his post by Metro Manila Police Chief Director Oscar Albayalde.
Senate to adopt resolution
The Senate is expected to adopt on Tuesday a resolution condemning the killing of De los Santos and calling on the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the accountability of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations that may have resulted in unnecessary and unjustified deaths.
“Similar incidents require deeper scrutiny to ensure the accountability of the PNP and its officers as they implement the campaign against illegal drugs,” the draft resolution added.
The draft resolution noted that police operations resulted in the death of 81 suspected drug personalities in Bulacan, Manila and the areas in Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela (Camanava).
Robredo visits Kian’s wake
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo condemned the killing of De los Santos after visiting his wake on Sunday.
“This is saddening. Killings have a face: Kian. We can’t help but wonder, how many Kians have passed away? How many Kians will still have to die? Given the situation, we must express our condemnation of what happened,” Robredo said in her weekly radio show.
“The family took me where Kian was accosted by the police…where he was shot. It’s hard to comprehend why Kian was bought to that place when the barangay hall is so near. Why bring Kian in a dark alley?” Robredo added.
Robredo extended her condolences to delos Santos’ parents, Zaldy and Lorenzana. Zaldy runs a sari-sari (variety) store, while Lorenzana is an overseas Filipino worker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia who rushed home following the news of her son’s death.
“I take this case personally because Kian is the same age as my youngest [daughter Jillian]. Given what happened, I can’t help but think that if this happened to Kian, this will also happen to our children,” Robredo, a mother to three daughters, said.
“An independent investigation must be conducted on the incident, as the CCTV footage and accounts from neighbors seemingly contradict the claims of the police. Otherwise, Kian won’t be the last to suffer the same fate,” Robredo said.
BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO, JING VILLAMENTE AND LLANESCA T. PANTI