The Philippine Public Attorney’s Office yesterday said it would seek murder charges against three policemen whose killing of a high-school student last week has triggered rare public outrage about the country’s fierce war on drugs.
The death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos on Aug. 16 in a rundown area of Manila has drawn huge domestic attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge that authorities deny.
Philippine Chief Public Attorney Persida Acosta said the complaint against the three policemen was yesterday to be forwarded to the Philippine Department of Justice.
Delos Santos was found dead in an alley with a gun in his left hand.
Police said they killed him in self-defense, but his family said he had no weapon, was right-handed and had no involvement in drugs.
Security cameras showed the officers aggressively escorting a man matching Delos Santos’ description toward the area where he was killed.
The three policemen have admitted that they were the people shown in the video, but that they were escorting another suspect, not Delos Santos.
The office and police pathologists who performed separate autopsies told a Philippine Senate hearing that Delos Santos was shot from above, from close range.
“It was cold-blooded murder, he was shot while kneeling down,” Acosta told news channel ANC. “We are here for truth and justice so we have to file this immediately.”
The complaint, if accepted, would follow at least two cases filed last year against police over Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of Filipinos, outraged human rights groups and alarmed Western governments.
However, most of the public supports the campaign, according to opinion polls, and domestic opposition has been muted.
Several police commanders relieved of their duty over the student’s killing told a Senate inquiry on Thursday that Delos Santos was not the target of their operation, and his links to drugs were known to them only the day after his death.
Officers said they learned of his suspected links to drugs from another drug suspect, a cellphone and chatter circulating on social media.
Delos Santos was among more than 90 people killed last week in three nights of intensified raids dubbed “one time, big time,” which had Duterte’s steadfast support. The term refers to a coordinated police drive to stamp out crime in a particular district.
The teen’s killing put the focus on Duterte’s repeated promises to police administering the crackdown that he would insulate them from any legal consequences.
Critics have said his rhetoric is tantamount to giving police a license to kill.
Duterte on Wednesday took a softer tone, telling police to arrest suspects and kill only if their lives were in danger, adding that he would not protect those who killed unarmed people.
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