Philippines: Students, Catholic church protest over teenager’s drug war death
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Philippines: Students, Catholic church protest over teenager’s drug war death

MORE THAN 1,000 protesters accompanied the funeral procession for 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos on Saturday, in a rare show of dissent against the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.

Nuns, priests and hundreds of children, chanting “justice for Kian, justice for all” joined the funeral cortege as it made its way from a church to the cemetery where the teenager was buried.

“Don’t they have a heart? I’m not sure they do. There’s a lot of churches, they should go there,” said Delos Santos’ father Saldy during a brief address to a mass in which he defended his son’s innocence and expressed anger at police.

SEE ALSO: Autopsy finds 17-year-old killed ‘intentionally’ in Duterte’s drug war

Delos Santos’ flower-draped coffin passed through a major highway on a small truck decorated with tarpaulins reading “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the killings” displayed on each side. Passing motorists honked in support.

The victim’s case has galvanised critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs which has killed thousands since he took office in June 2016. Delos Santos is among around 100 suspects who have been killed this month in a major operation by the Philippines National Police.

“This is a sign that the people have had enough and are indignant over the impunity that prevails today,” Renato Reyes, secretary-general of left-wing activist group Bayan (Nation), said in a statement.

“The people protest the utter lack of accountability in the police force.”

Delos Santos was found dead in a slum alley in the Caloocan area of Manila on Aug 16 with a gun in his left hand. Police claimed he was killed after fighting back during an anti-drug operation and pointed out during a Senate inquiry alleged social media posts about drugs.

His family said he was right-handed and was not involved with drugs. Witnesses have said they saw police officers hand Delos Santos the firearm and told him to run before gunning him down. His body was dumped next to a pigsty.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Police report deadliest day yet in Duterte’s war on drugs

Senior figures in the powerful Catholic Church have now widely criticised Duterte’s drug war, with the head of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines Father Antonio Moreno stating on Thursday “we cannot build the Philippine nation on the cadavers of the Filipino people.”

Head of Catholic Church in the Philippines Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle has also called for an end to the drug war which he said was “wasting human lives.”

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Mourners carry the coffin of Delos Santos to his grave in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines, on Aug 26, 2017. Source: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao

The country’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it was conducting a parallel investigation into Delos Santos’ death, with its forensic team attending his wake seeking to carry out a further autopsy.

“The NBI was not able to conduct its own autopsy because the parents refused to cooperate for reasons we do not know,” said spokesman Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday as quoted by the state Philippine News Agency, vowing the NBI investigation would continue regardless.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: Murder, torture charges filed against police in killing of teen

An initial autopsy conducted by the Philippine Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) found last week it appeared to have been an “intentional killing,” with Delos Santos being shot in the ear and back as the killer stood over his body.

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PNP officers Jeremias Pereda, Jerwin Cruz and Arnel Oares take an oath during a hearing on Delos Santos’ killing at the Senate headquarters in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines, on Aug 24, 2017. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

“There’s no evidence to back up [the policemen’s story] that he fought back. He was lying face down, his shooter was standing above him,” said PAO official Erwin Erfe.

Delos Santos’ parents have filed criminal charges against the three police officers and their chief Amor Cerillo before the Philippines Department of Justice. All have reportedly been relieved from their posts and placed under restrictive custody.

The Internal Affairs Service, which investigates alleged wrongdoings by Philippines police, said on Friday that it had a “watertight” case against the officers.

Additional reporting by Reuters