MANILA, Philippines — Saying there has been too much bloodshed already, Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David, the Catholic bishop of Caloocan City, where two teens died in the hands of the police, is urging relatives of young victims of extrajudicial killings as well as those who have witnessed the executions to come forward and tell what they know.
“If you are a relative of a victim of extrajudicial killings, or witness to an extrajudicial killing of a particular victim, now is time to come out and prove that Kian, Carl and Reynaldo were not isolated case,” the prelate, who is the younger brother of sociology professor Randolf “Randy” David, said at a press briefing on Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Commission on Human Rights office in Diliman, Quezon City.
Seventeen-year-old Kian delos Santos, a Grade 11 student, was killed during a police anti-drug operation in Caloocan last August 16.
Twelve days later, 19-year-old former University of the Philippines Carl Angelo Arnaiz also died in the city in a supposed firefight with arresting authorities, 11 days after he went missing and was last seen with 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman in Cainta, Rizal.
Last Sept. 5, the body of a boy, identified by Eduardo Gabriel and Lina de Guzman as that of their son Reynaldo was found floating in a creek in Brgy. San Roque, Gapan City, Nueva Ecija with 28 stab wounds.
Kian is 54th young victim of Tokhang
Bishop David issued the statement more than a week after the non-government Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center claimed that it had documented 54 cases of minors killed amid the Duterte administration’s war on drugs campaign.
In a media interview, the center’s executive director Rowena Legaspi said “Kian was actually the 54th case, so it’s not an isolated case.”
According to Legaspi, most youngsters were allegedly killed by motorycle-riding vigilantes but there were also cases similar to that of Delos Santos, which involved authorities.
On Thursday, David urged residents of his diocese to seek help with their parish priest in seeking justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings.
“If you are from South Caloocan, Malabon, or Navotas, which are part of my diocese and you want your stories to be documented with the hope to eventually file a case in court with the help of volunteer lawyers at no expense, please visit your parish priest,” the bishop said.
The Philippine National Police, Department of Justice, and the Office of the President earlier said that what happened to Delos Santos was an isolated case.
The Grade 11 student was intentionally killed and the arrest of a witness, who claimed that Delos Santos was a drug runner, was only staged “to conceal the crime (that the) police officers have committed,” according to the National Bureau of Investigation.
David, who took custody of one of the witnesses to Delos Santos’ slay, said, “I think some of them (other government agencies) have declared too soon that these are isolated cases. They have not yet heard the other cases.”
Also, the prelate maintained that drug users and abusers could still be reformed.
“Madalas sabihin na [It is often said that] criminals cannot be reformed What? Hindi ka na naniniwala sa restorative justice? ‘Yon ang pundasyon ng batas [You no longer believe in restorative justice? That’s the foundation of law],” he said.
“Some of them go wayward pero kailangan ma-reform sila at maibalik sa society ng tama. Hindi na natin ma-reform ang patay,” said David.
[Some of them go wayward but they need to be reformed and properly returned to society. We could no longer reform the dead.]
“My heart breaks when I hear (about) killed people on a daily basis. Sobra na ang pagdanak ng dugo [There has been too much bloodshed already],” he added.