The country has been gripped with dread these past weeks because of the spate of brutal murders of young men possibly by members of the Philippine National Police. President Rodrigo Duterte has, from the start of the last campaign period stressed that he would wage a war against illegal drugs to save the future of our youth. He said from the onset that this war would be bloody.
Sixteen million voters put Duterte in Malacañang, the so-called “war against drugs” is waged, and indeed, it is as bloody as movie scenes from the times of the barbarians. An estimated 13,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been brutally killed since the big majority of them belonging to the poorest segments of our society. Many of the killings happened while in custody of the police who alleged that said suspects resisted arrest and/or assaulted the authorities. With the dead numbering to thousands, it is not surprising that people say that there is a pattern in this madness.
The night of Aug. 14 to 15 was bloodiest when police operations dubbed as “one time, big time” resulted in the killing of 32 drug suspects in Bulacan. In response, Duterte even said that this was good and if done every day, perhaps the drug problem will be abated.
The following night as part of the “one time, big time operation”, 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, son of a domestic helper in the Middle East and a sari-sari store owner, was murdered by Caloocan police in an anti-drug operation. Kian, a grade 11 student, was never in the police’s drug watch list. Neighbors and school teachers attested that he was a good boy who was never in trouble in school and in the neighborhood.
The police had a different story. They said that Kian was identified as a drug “runner” by another arrested suspect. The police also said that Kian shot them first which prompted them to shoot back in self-defense. This killed the teenager. His body was found in a fetal position holding an old rusty gun with his left hand despite his being right handed. Two sachets of shabu were also allegedly found with Kian.
This version was belied by the CCTV footage and witnesses to the killing. The video showed Kian being dragged by two men in civilian clothes (later identified as members of the Caloocan police) towards the spot where the boy’s body was found. Witnesses said that Kian was assaulted by the men, forced to hold the gun and run. Kian is said to have begged for his life before he was shot. This 17-year-old suffered three gunshots in the head.
Just after a few days of Kian’s killing came the death of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz also at the hands of Caloocan Police. Carl, who lived in Cainta, was also a son of an OFW mother, and a former student of the University of the Philippines. He went missing for ten days with 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman. Carl’s father said that the young man was only going to buy snacks but was next found dead in a morgue in Caloocan City.
The police said that Carl held up a taxi driver, was accosted but shot the police first which resulted in a shootout that killed him. The authorities also said they found three sachets of suspected shabu and marijuana leaves in a backpack carried by the boy.
However, the autopsy reports told a different story from the police allegations. Carl died from five gunshot wounds in the torso area. He was probably lying or kneeling down when shot several times. His body bore marks indicating that he was tortured before being killed.
Carl’s parents could not believe that their son could have done what the police said he did. They said that Carl was not into drugs, did not own a gun, much more shoot one.
Carl’s case drew national attention because it came on the heels of what happened to Kian. People were wondering where Carl’s companion, the 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman was since he disappeared with Carl.
A few days later, Reynaldo’s body was found floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. Reynaldo’s head was covered in plastic and packaging tape, his feet tied, and his body bore no less than 30 stab wounds. Some of these wounds could have been made by a knife that is at least nine inches long. Authorities said that the boy has not been dead long before he was found.
If Reynaldo was with Carl when the latter was killed, then he was the only witness to the killing of Carl. He could not be left alive.
Reynaldo was tortured in a most barbaric way. It will be remembered that at the start of this “war on drugs,” victims were also covered with packaging tape with cardboards saying that they were drug dealers/pushers. Was the manner by which Reynaldo was killed an attempt to cover the identity of his murderers? Were they trying to make it look like some vigilante, or even drug addict killed the tiny Kulot?
This war on drugs is killing innocent people, even our youth. President Duterte said that he is waging this war to protect the young but in truth, they are being savagely murdered.
Kian, Carl, and Reynaldo could have been my, or your sons, brothers, or friends. They did not deserve to die. None of the 13,000 did no matter if they were suspected of being drug users or pushers. Due process must be observed.
President Duterte must put a stop to this madness. He must make these policemen face the consequences of their actions instead of condoning their abuses. They are supposed to protect, not murder the people.
Mr. President, the Filipino people are furious. The manner by which this war against drug you lead is turning out to be a war against the very people you have sworn to serve and protect. This is killing our youth, our future. You are the one who can stop this, NOW.
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