Four years ago today, Aug. 16, Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student, was killed by policemen during an illegal drugs operation in Caloocan City.
Three policemen – PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz – were found guilty and sentenced to 40-year imprisonment without parole. They were also ordered to pay P345,000 in damages to Delos Santos’ family.
“The use of unnecessary or wanton violence is not justified when the fulfillment of their duty as law enforcers can be effected otherwise. A ‘shoot first, think later’ attitude can never be countenanced in a civilized society,” the Caloocan City regional trial court (RTC) said in its decision.
In remembering the death of Delos Santos, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) demanded the government to do better in its war against illegal drugs.
CHR Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia lamented that the culture of killings sadly persists to this day.
The United Nations Human Rights Office has already urged the government to address the “widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects” and the “persistent impunity and formidable barriers in accessing justice” in the country.
“Yet investigations of thousands of cases in question are still pending, with only few cases reaching the courts and other fora,” De Guia said.
“We call on the government to give better meaning to commitments to uphold human rights by seeking the truth behind numerous deaths and other forms of human rights violations in the country, including cases of alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s anti-drug campaign,” she said.
She pointed out the CHR has been “open” to work with the government in the investigation of cases of reported human rights violations.
The pursuit of truth and justice is never truly complete until all perpetrators are held into account, she stressed.
“We must continue to assert the value of human life and dignity, and cease regarding others as mere collateral damages in pursuit of public peace,” she added.
Early on Monday, Aug. 16, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has finished its review of the first 52 cases among the more than 6,000 police operations against illegal drugs that resulted in deaths.
“If criminal investigation is warranted, witnesses – including family members – will be sought and called upon to provide information,” Guevarra said.
Last July, Guevarra said: “Itong naunang 52 cases doon may finding na administrative liability ang PNP (Philippine National Police) Internal Affairs Service so yun ang uunahin namin dahil may nakita na sila doon (We are investigating these 52 cases first because the PNP-IAS already found administrative liability among the policemen involved).”
Aside from the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) also submitted to the DOJ last June a total of 107 cases of killings that happened during its illegal drugs operations.