MURDER charges were filed on Friday against Caloocan City policemen involved in the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd de los Santos.
Kian’s parents, Zaldy and Lorenza de los Santos, represented by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), filed a complaint for murder before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila.
The complaint named Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares and Police Officers 1 Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz; their supervisor, Caloocan City Police Community Precinct 7 commander Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo; and several unidentified individuals.
PAO forensic experts Erwin Erfe, Alexis Sulit and Angelo Ramos had found that Kian succumbed to three fatal wounds including a “treacherous wound” at the back.
There were two entry wounds in the head—first at the inside of the ear and second at the back of the left ear. A bullet also entered Kian’s back.
The case went to the PAO after Kian’s parents wrote a letter to Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta seeking justice for their son.
The three policemen, except Cerillo, have been placed under restrictive custody to ensure an impartial probe by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Internal Affairs Service into the incident, which has sparked public outrage.
During a Senate inquiry on Thursday, police claimed they killed Kian in self-defense as the boy resisted arrest and fired at them during an anti-drug operation at Barangay 160 in Caloocan on August 16.
Police claimed Kian was a drug courier.
The de los Santos family and their witnesses however argued that CCTV camera footage would prove that the teenager could not have run away – it showed Kian being dragged by policemen after his apprehension, close to the place where he was later found dead.
Witnesses also said they heard de los Santos begging for his life before being shot to death by the policemen.
Acosta asked the DOJ to place the witnesses under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Hontiveros says she was ‘authorized’
Also on Friday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan Party said she was authorized to take custody of two minor witnesses.
Hontiveros said a woman, an overseas Filipino worker in Oman, had retracted her previous statement that she did not allow the senator to take custody of her 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old niece.
The other witness is a 31-year-old woman.
Hontiveros said the witnesses sought protection from her office, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David after they received “threats” after Kian’s death.
“The threats took different forms whether through texts and people attending the wake. They sought help the very first day [of de los Santos’ death],” the lawmaker said.
She showed two documents dated August 24, emailed from Oman, authorizing Hontiveros to provide “security and sanctuary” to the witnesses who saw the killing of de los Santos on August 16.
The worker from Oman called up Hontiveros on Friday and apologized.
“I talked to my child yesterday. In our conversation she said that she would rather be with Senator Hontiveros. I was able to understand several things that confused me. So, I apologize to Attorney Acosta and also to Senator Hontiveros,” the woman said.
The witnesses are temporarily under the custody of the Senate until their testimony in an executive session with senators on August 29, when the chamber resumes its investigation into de los Santos’ killing.
Aguirre urged to inhibit
Hontiveros also called on Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd to inhibit from investigating the killing of de los Santos, and to cease from offering to bring the witnesses under the WPP.
Aguirre told the Senate probe Thursday there was no difference between Kian’s death at the hands of the police and the murders committed by drug addicts, drawing the ire of senators.
“After his one-sided statements in [Thursday’s] hearing, the Justice secretary has lost all credibility to hear this case. He has also lost the trust and confidence of the public that he can capably protect the witnesses. Placing the witnesses under Secretary Aguirre’s ‘care’ would be like delivering sheep into the lion’s den,” she said.
Callamard told to wait
Malacañang on Friday said it would wait for the results of the investigation into the killing before making any conclusion on his death.
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Omar Alexander Romero issued the statement after United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard branded as “murder” the slay of de los Santos by police officers in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City.
Reposting an online article on the probe into Kian’s death, Callamard tweeted: “Yes, [President] Duterte, this is murder. All unlawful deaths must be investigated to stop all murderers [in the]Philippines,” she said.
On Wednesday, Duterte repeated his stern warning to policemen not to kill a criminal “begging for his life” as it could be considered murder.
“I am not justifying [de los Santos’ slay]in Caloocan. It was really bad. That’s not an example of performance of duty. Do not commit a crime,” Duterte said. “You are not allowed to kill a person kneeling down, begging for his life. That is murder.”
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said police officers in anti-drug operations should abide by the rule of law and due process as such campaign “is not a license to break the law.”
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE