THE Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has found the element of treachery in the death of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos at the hands of Caloocan City policemen, as anti-crime advocates called for an independent probe into the alleged extrajudicial killing.
Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta said forensic experts have conducted an initial autopsy and concluded that there was “intentional killing.”
Acosta said PAO tapped the services of forensics experts Erwin Erfe, Alexis Sulit and Angelo Ramos.
De los Santos succumbed to three fatal gunshot wounds including a “treacherous wound” at the back of the body, she said.
“Two entry wounds in the head – first at the inside of the ear and second at the back of the left ear. There was one entry at the back of the body of Kian,” Acosta said in a text message to The Manila Times.
Erfe told The Times a 9-mm pistol could have been used against the victim because the entry wound matched the width of a 9-mm slug.
Letter from parents
Acosta promised justice to de los Santos’ family and said PAO would file murder charges against the police.
The parents of Kian wrote a letter to Acosta–who came to his wake at Barangay 160 in Caloocan City–asking for legal assistance and an autopsy on their son.
Caloocan City police claimed they fired back at de los Santos, who allegedly fired at them with a .45 pistol, as he tried to escape on the night of August 16.
But a video from a closed-circuit television camera produced by the village shows the policemen dragging a man away.
Three witnesses, now under the custody of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, said Kian was mauled then given a gun by police before being asked to run for his life.
Witnesses also said Kian, a Grade 11 student, even pleaded for the police to stop hurting him because he was supposed to take an exam at school the next day.
The three policemen involved in the operation – Police Officers 1 Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz and Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares, have been sacked from their posts.
Their precinct commander, Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo, and Caloocan City Police Chief Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna have likewise been relieved.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa claimed on Sunday that Kian had delivered drugs for his father and uncle.
He also presented to media a self-proclaimed drug pusher who claimed to have had transactions with Kian.
Northern Police District Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo reinforced this theory in a news conference in Camp Crame on Monday.
“Nung namatay, mabait na. Nung namatay, naging santo na [He died and became a good person. He died and became a saint],” he told reporters.
He admitted, however, that de los Santos was not on the drug watch list of Caloocan police, as he was a “newly identified” drug personality based on a police intelligence report.
Fajardo also said the policemen involved in the killing didn’t know de los Santos was a minor.
“Let’s set aside emotions. Let’s stick to the facts, the evidence,” he said.
Father willing to take drug test
De los Santos’ father, Saldy, said on Monday he and his entire family were willing to undergo drug testing to prove that he was not a user or a pusher as alleged by police officials.
In an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel, Saldy said he was at a crossroads, since he supported President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign and the ensuing anti-drug war, which had claimed his son’s life.
“It’s painful. It’s painful that we supported (the President) and my son became a victim,” he said.
He also appealed to President Duterte: “Help us. Give justice to our son. Make them pay.”
Saldy dared De la Rosa to interview their neighbors who could prove that Kian was a good kid.
“My neighbors can prove what kind of kid he was. He was a good son, we were just trying to make a living. He was not into going out with friends. He didn’t know how to curse,” he said.
Kian, Saldy said, had simple wants. A day before his death, the teenager asked for a bike from his mother, an overseas worker in Saudi Arabia.
Saldy and wife Lorenzana will bury Kian on Sunday.
“His mother toiled in a different country to send her son to school, not to be a drug courier,” he said.
The Department of Justice opened its doors on Monday to the De los Santos family, with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd saying the family and witnesses in the killing can apply for the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“If they will apply, we are willing to consider them to the WPP,” Aguirre said.
The WPP provides for a safe house, security and monetary allowances, among other benefits.
VACC wants independent probe
Anti-crime advocates on Monday called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel investigation into De los Santos’s death.
“We expect witnesses to come out and it can only be validated and verified through an independent investigation carried by an independent party. The PNP can’t do it because its members are the ones involved in the incident,” said Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
Aguirre said he had ordered the NBI to conduct a parallel investigation under Department Order No. 546.
“Director Gierran shall submit a report to the Office of the Secretary of Justice on its action related to the implementation of this order. The order takes immediately and shall remain in force until further orders,” read the order dated August 18.
Jimenez said his organization will extend assistance to the family of De los Santos.
“VACC will be extending its full help once we determine the true circumstances in the case that NBI could only provide,” he added.
Jimenez also warned the family and witnesses against some personalities supposedly trying to take advantage of the situation and blame the killing on the President.
“I hope this group will respect the victims and his family. This is not politics, this is crime we are dealing with,” he added.
Jimenez also called on the members of the PNP to observe the law in carrying out their anti-drug operations, and not to take the President “literally” when he said he would pardon all policemen accused of wrongdoing.
CHR to probe rising death toll
Also on Monday, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed alarm over the rising death toll in the drug war.
“The Commission through its regional offices has already commenced its motu propio investigations on the alleged EJK (extrajudicial killings) cases. Investigators have been dispatched to Bulacan, Biñan, Laguna and Manila since the killings happened,” said CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, EJK Task Force head.
CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said: “We are not against the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. The State has the responsibility to protect the people, but there should be a human rights perspective. Let us help them solve their drug abuse problems by recognizing that they are humans with dignity, too.”
with FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO, GLEE JALEA, JING VILLAMENTE AND RJ CARBONELL