Lead Story

Duterte's Drug War Gets Its First Murder Case

The Philippines’ brutal war on drugs has been attacked by many, both in country and around the world, as violating human rights and bloody to an extreme, with thousands already dead as a result. Now finally, three policemen are being arrested for the killing of a teenager in August 2017 as part of that war.

In August 2017, a 17-year boy name Kian Loyd delos Santos, was shot dead in a dark alley. He was listed in the books after the fact as a drug courier. The official justification of his death at the time was he resisted arrest with violence, endangering the lives of the officers who shot him, they said, in self-defense.

Human rights organizations argued that it was unlikely the boy would have resisted arrest considering how he had been found after the killing. They instead said this was yet another of the many systematic executions conducted as part of Philippines’ President Duterte’s war on drugs.

As the story unraveled further, it turns out that all family and friends insisted the boy had no involvement in drugs. There has so far been no information linking him as a drug courier to any of the local cartels. There were drugs and a handgun found by his body after he was killed, but many say that was planted to further justify his death.

Duterte gives high public praise to police who kill drug dealers. He also promised to pardon any officers who are jailed for that crime. Other members of his extended support team, such as Cebu City’s Mayor Tommy Osmeña, who had even authorized a sizeable bounty for officers who killed drug suspects; they did not receive the bounty if they only captured them. In other cities, the fever to be ‘part of the action’ had the city of Lapu-Lapu (and others) making stencils which said, “Identified Drug Den”, and then spraying the sign onto house walls where drug use was highly suspected. It was referred to as the “shame campaign”.

All of these point to a desire to crack down on drugs at all costs, without regard for the rights of those who were being attacked, and – by endorsing what are being referred to in the Philippines as “EJK” (extra-judicial killings) – drug suspects were seen more as targets to be shot rather than individuals to be arrested and then brought to trial as appropriate.

An investigation was demanded and on February 7 it came to a head. The Caloocan City regional trial court in Manila issued arrest orders for the three policemen charged in the case. They had been on restricted duty since the murder. John Bulalacao, a spokesman for the Philippine National Police, said “We will comply with the arrest order”.

The police charged in the crime will reportedly be moved to jail cells soon.

The trial has not yet been scheduled. When it is, five separate groups all have major stakes in the case: the policemen who have been charged, the boy’s family and friends, the police in general, and the entire future of Duterte’s war on drugs.

As of this writing, almost 4,000 drug suspects have been killed by police in that war.