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Funeral for teenager killed by Philippine police galvanizes Rodrigo Duterte critics
Sydney Morning Herald - August 27, 2017
Students joined nuns, activists and even supporters of Duterte as an estimated 5,000 people marched in light rain, demanding accountability from the president, who has appeared to soften his tough anti-crime rhetoric and has ordered the detention of three police officers pending an investigation into the killing.
"I hope that what happened to my son will not happen to members of their families," Saldy delos Santos, the boy's father, said of the police officers. He wore a white shirt with the words "Justice for Kian" written on an image of a black ribbon.
"The whole village knows my son as a good boy," he added. "All he knows is how to help the family. How can they say he was on drugs?"
Next to him was his wife, Lorenza delos Santos, who wept silently as a stream of mourners stopped by a small neighbourhood church in Caloocan, a mostly poor, northern Manila suburb, where a funeral Mass was offered for their son.
The teenager was among 96 people killed in the Manila area in what police called a "one-time, big-time" crackdown on drug dealers and addicts in the capital and in several sprawling suburbs.
His death has rankled the
government and forced Mr Duterte to acknowledge publicly that there may
have been lapses. On Saturday, the president's spokesman, Ernesto Abella,
said the government would not tolerate "wrongdoings or illegal acts" from
any law enforcement officer.
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That statement was a reversal from Mr Duterte's words last week, when he appeared to encourage police to kill more drug suspects after praising them for a bloody anti-narcotics operation that has left nearly 100 people dead in the bloodiest siege since he began the campaign last year.
Delos Santos' death has raised serious questions about how police conduct raids. Mr Abella said the government's public prosecutor had filed criminal complaints of murder against the officers involved at the Justice Department, underscoring the "resolve" of the government, he added.
"Let us allow the legal process to run its course, and trust the justice system under the Duterte presidency," Mr Abella said.
The complaint followed a Senate inquiry on Thursday during which forensics investigators and the public attorney's office testified that delos Santos had been shot at close range while kneeling.
The politically influential Roman Catholic Church, which counts 80 per cent of Filipinos as members, has used the death of the teenager to call on Mr Duterte to stop what it called his ill-conceived war on drugs. On Saturday, one of its most outspoken priests, the Reverend Robert Reyes, led the funeral march and attacked Mr Duterte's campaign against crime, which he said was "clearly, a war on the poor".
On Saturday, supporters of Mr Duterte joined the crowd at the funeral march and cried with the boy's father. Some, including Michael Alberto Darang, a 20-year-old college student, said he had voted for Mr Duterte. He displayed a wristband bearing the president's name.
"I used to believe in Duterte's promise to end crime," he said, "and in fact, I think that is partly true. But I never wanted deaths for the innocent. Stop these killings. Instead, arrest drug lords and others."