‘Remember Kian’: Calling for justice, Filipinos recall 17-year-old’s death

August 20, 2018 - 1:03 PM
Residents of Baesa, Caloocan gathered around the spot where Kian was shot in the head allegedly by Caloocan cops last year. They say it's been quieter since, unlike before when plainclothesmen swooped down in their area arresting alleged addicts. (The STAR/Marc Jayson Cayabyab)

It has been a year since 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs” campaign. Filipinos on social media commemorated his death, sharing the hashtag “#RememberKian.”

Superficial Gazette, a Twitter account critical of the administration, claimed that more minors would lose their lives under the campaign as long as Duterte is in office.

User Vince Liban noted the date and estimated hour of Delos Santos’ death last year, saying, “This is not the change we want.”

Another social media user included the last words of Delos Santos before he was killed. He also shared some lyrics of Bamboo’s song “Tatsulok” that relates to the subject matter.

Writer Irish Dizon appealed for the public to remember not just Delos Santos, but each child who was a victim in the drug war.

Others simply recalled the incident and called for justice that have yet to be served.

Gone too soon 

On the night of Aug. 16, 2017, Kian delos Santos was shot by the Caloocan police in a one-time, big-time drug operation conducted in Barangay 160 of the region, as seen in a video footage.

The boy was accused of being a drug courier, a claim that has been heavily denied by his father and other accounts.

Police claimed that Delos Santos was armed but a CCTV footage and eyewitnesses’ accounts indicate otherwise. Evidence also showed that cops gave him a gun and ordered him to run before they shot him dead.

Cops involved in the case got promoted, a move heavily condemned by a human rights organization.

The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center noted that Delos Santos was not the first nor the last child killed in the drug war.

“We have documented at least 54 cases since July 2016 until August 2017. Kian was actually the 54th case. So it’s not an isolated case,” executive director Rowena Legaspi said in an interview.

Most of the recorded incidents, she said, involved riding-in-tandem vigilantes. However, Delos Santos’ case was the most controversial, having been recorded by security camers and involving policemen who insisted on their innocence.

Minors who have been implicated in the “war on drugs” campaign was described by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre as “collateral damage.”

Other young victims

In August 2016, five-year-old Danica May Garcia was shot by a stray bullet after two men barged into their house in Pangasinan.

The bullet was meant for her grandfather, who had surrendered to authorities four days prior to the incident. Garcia was described by her relatives as a happy, kind and obedient kid who was a jokester.

Policemen inspecting a crime scene in relation to the “war on drugs” campaign. (Philstar/File photo)

Toward the end of the month in the same year, another minor died in the bloody campaign.

Four-year-old Althea Barbon got shot by the police who were chasing her father, who was a suspected drug dealer in Negros Oriental.

According to the authorities, they didn’t see the minor with her father since both of them were riding a motorcycle. The police attacked from behind.

In December 2016, five-year-old Francisco Mañosca died alongside his father in Pasay City. Mañosca’s father was an alleged drug dealer in the area.

Elizabeth Mañosca, Francisco’s mother, said in an interview that seeking justice for her son’s death was futile. “It’s useless, it would not bring back my son’s life,” she remarked.

There are several more minors who were reported victims in the campaign. As of December 2017, Amnesty International cited that “as many as 60 children” have already lost their lives since June 2016.

Duterte warned in his third State of the Nation Address that the drug war would continue to be “relentless and chilling” when he had first implemented it.