OpinionOne death is one too many
One death is one too many
August 22, 2017
August 22, 2017

Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student, was killed in an Oplan Galugad police operation in Barangay 160, Caloocan City on August 16. His death sparked outcry—and rightly so—as a CCTV video surfaced showing two policemen wearing civilian clothes dragging Kian with a cloth over his head. This is a stark contrast from the report of the policemen involved in the killing, who claimed Kian fired at them with a gun.

As their retelling goes, Kian allegedly tried to run away and fired at them with a gun, a story that seems uncanny as Kian’s autopsy showed that the first shot was to his back, meaning he had to be defenseless and facing the other way. The second and third shot were to the back of his left ear and inside his left ear. A medicolegal officer from the Public Attorney’s Office later on declared that the autopsy pointed to an “intentional killing”.

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Eyewitnesses insist that Kian was ordered by the policemen to take the gun, fire it, and run. Kian, according to eyewitnesses, begged for his life—as he had a test in school the following day. Kian, who was found in a fetal position, had a gun lying by his left hand when he was right-handed. Like the thousands of others who begged for their lives, Kian was not spared. The police remain pigheaded in rehashing their nanlaban rhetoric—a futile, pitiful, and now all too-familiar attempt at authenticity, their monologue is just as predictable as the last.

Thus far, the four policemen involved in the death of Kian—Chief Inspector Cerillo, PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz—have been relieved for the investigation to push through. Yet even though Kian’s name was not in the list of suspected drug personalities, Caloocan Police Chief Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna still maintains that Kian was a drug runner, based on the accusation of another drug suspect. Bersaluna was relieved from his post days following the incident, but National Capital Region Police Office chief Oscar Albayalde does not discount the fact that he may be reinstated if no liability is found.

Kian’s death should, hopefully, bring into light the grim picture of dead bodies piling up that is so often disregarded by staunch supporters of the drug war. Since the new administration launched its all out war on drugs last year, thousands of people have been killed, in official police operations or vigilante-style killings, inspired by none other than the words of the President himself.

At some point, people have grown to accept the deaths of many suspected to be drug addicts, users, runners, and peddlers, even though they are only these things based on mere suspicions. In doing so, we have chosen bullets over the justice system. We have become a country willingly able to stomach the deaths of many without an ounce of due process to their name.

But not all hope is lost. The people are not blind. Waves and waves of netizens relieved their sentiments and laments on social media, condemning the killing of Kian as the lowest of the low. Several have even taken the cry for justice offline and to the streets. Just last Monday, August 21, despite the inclement weather, droves of thousands came together nationwide to stage several protests to demand justice for Kian.

Even some of those who initially condoned the drug war drew the line to say, enough is enough. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has ordered an investigation into Kian’s death, and President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to place in jail the policemen involved if the “investigation [points] to liabilities.”

But why, why did it have to take more than an entire year and at least 31 children—the youngest of them only 4 years old—for people to come to their senses? How much more blood needs to be shed for the country to realize one death is one too many? How many more people have to die?

The LaSallian stands with the rest of the country in condemning the factors that led to young Kian’s death—the policemen’s actions, yes, but the administration’s words and decisions as well, who have guided and enforced these kinds of actions in the past year. We call on all fellow Lasallians and fellow Filipinos to continue making their voices heard, to continue showing their indignation and disgust, and to continue challenging the very culture that this administration perpetrates that tell citizens that these cases are ‘okay’. It is our duty to continue this fight, until no other innocent Filipinos like Kian will ever have to suffer the same ill fate.