By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night, Aug. 21, assured the public the cops behind the Aug. 17 killing of a 17-year-old high-school student in Caloocan City will be jailed if proven guilty.
According to police who seized the teenager in a fresh wave of anti-drug operations last week, Kian Loyd delos Santos resisted arrest, prompting them to fire back at him. Reportedly recovered from Mr. Delos Santos were a .45 pistol and two sachets of suspected shabu (methamphetamine).
But this version has come under fire after a CCTV footage aired by local television networks showed Mr. Delos Santos being dragged by two policemen to a place where his dead body was later found. Eyewitness accounts also claimed that cops forced Mr. Delos Santos to fight back.
SUNG KIM’S TWEET
Mr. Delos Santos’s murder has sparked outrage over the government’s revitalized drug war in the form of “one-time, big time” anti-drug operations, which saw their bloodiest outcome yet last week.
Religious leaders have added their collective voice to the clamor against the conduct of the drug war, and so too have Mr. Duterte’s allies in the Senate.
But in the House, legislators have been uncharacteristically mum over the controversial killing, apart from oppositionists like Ifugao Representative Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr., who said on Tuesday “it was incumbent upon the House of Representatives to undertake its own independent investigation into the killings….”
For his part, US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim on Tuesday said on his Twitter account, as retweeted by the US Embassy: “My condolences go out to the family and friends of Kian. Hope that the investigations lead to full accountability.”
In his media interview at Malacañang, Mr. Duterte said he kept mum on the issue despite viewing the CCTV tape of the incident because the Justice Department has already begun an inquiry on the case
He then stressed that he will not meddle in the ongoing probe.
“I saw the tape or tapes doon sa TV and I agree that there should be an investigation. Should the investigation point to liabilities by one, two, or all, there will be a prosecution and they have to go to jail if convicted,” he said.
“The most prudent thing for me to do is to shut up and wait for the result of the investigation.”
Mr. Duterte, for his part, also said he would not visit the wake of the teenager because such a move is “pregnant with so many suppositions.”
“Then, I would be putting so much pressure on the police….I cannot do that because the organization (of the) PNP (Philippine National Police) is under me. I would be the last person to condemn them without a valid investigation,” he said.
Despite his previous criticisms toward the “corrupt to the core” police force, Mr. Duterte has repeatedly assured cops he will pardon them if they are charged for carrying out his brutal drug war.
When asked if he would grant pardon to the policemen behind the death of Mr. Delos Santos, the President replied: “No, because I saw the evidence. That’s why I called Bato (dela Rosa, PNP chief).”
“You have no duty to murder a person….‘Yung arestado na, nakaupo na diyan, barilin mo, that’s another thing. That would be murder or homicide,” he explained.
“Look, we can only agree on what is right and legal. I do not care if you lose your trust in me.”
Apparently referring to the demonstrations against the killing of Mr. Delos Santos and his brutal drug war, Mr. Duterte remarked: “It is an uprising. I encourage you to do it.”
“Go ahead. I am waiting for that actually. So that there will be a change of President and everything. And perhaps the new generation will come up with a government that is really working.”
The PNP on Monday said it has ordered its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate the death of Mr. Delos Santos.
This is apart from a probe by the National Bureau of Investigation, as ordered by the Department of Justice, and a Senate inquiry scheduled on Thursday.
To ensure “utmost impartiality” in CIDG’s inquiry, the PNP said Mr. Dela Rosa has placed Caloocan City police chief, Senior Superintendent Chito Bersaluna, under administrative relief effective Aug. 21. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) has also been directed to put all Caloocan cops being probed under restrictive custody.
DE LIMA’S PETITION
Also on Tuesday, detained Senator Leila M. De Lima asked the Supreme Court (SC) to allow her to attend Thursday’s Senate probe on Mr. delos Santos’s death.
Through her counsel Teddy Esteban Rigoroso, Ms. De Lima filed a Very Urgent Supplemental Motion for Legislative Furlough to attend the Senate hearing. She cited previous cases where the SC granted furlough to accused petitioners celebrating their birthdays, Christmas, or the New Year or planning to attend a relative’s wake or surgery.
The senator is currently detained at the PNP headquarters in Quezon City, following a warrant issued by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court handling drug trafficking cases filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against her.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II said he “simply cannot” sack the Caloocan City Prosecutor who showed prejudice against Mr. Delos Santos.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon, in a statement on Sunday, Aug. 20, called for the “immediate” removal of Caloocan City Assistant State Prosecutor Darwin Cañete who, in a radio interview, was quoted as saying that the possibility of Mr. Delos Santos being totally innocent is “far-fetched.”
In a statement on Monday night, Mr. Aguirre said he “simply cannot order the relief of [Mr. Cañete] from the case of [Mr. Delos Santos]. In the first place, he is not handling the case. As a matter of fact no case has yet been filed.”
The justice chief also explained that Mr. Cañete “is tasked to gather the relevant factual antecedents of such case upon the invitation of the police. And that is all that he did in the case of [Mr. Delos Santos’s death.]”
As such, Mr. Aguirre assured that Mr. Cañete is no longer included in the raffle of the case, should one be filed at the City Prosecutor’s Office of Caloocan City.
“This exclusion is precisely done to avoid any purported prejudgment from being present in his resolution of the case if the same is raffled to him,” Mr. Aguirre added. — with reports by Kristine Joy V. Patag and interaksyon.com