The story of Kian

Philippines
Drugs
Human Rights
The killing of Kian, 17, in the Philippines war on drugs. Extrajudicial killing
Protest against the Philippine war on drugs at the Philippines Consulate General in New York City. By Flickr user VOCAL-NY

Church bells rang at exactly 8pm and will ring again tomorrow night, and every other night thereafter. And at 8:24pm, every night, there will be a minute of silence.

It was at that hour that Kian Loyd Delos Santos, 17, a grade 11 student, was last seen alive before policemen killed him in a drug operation in Caloocan City, in the northeastern part of Metropolitan Manila.

A CCTV footage showed Delos Santos was dragged by two men at 8:24 on 16 Wednesday last week before he was found dead.

He was among the 82 people killed by police on the night of 16 August, and is among the more than 7,000 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, according to Human Rights Watch. The extrajudicial killings started when President Duterte launched a war on drugs last year.

It has been bloody, with bodies after bodies strewn grotesquely in the streets of Metro Manila almost every night.

Authorities tell the same story over and over – the victims fought back and so they had to shoot them; but families and relatives of victims say otherwise.

In the case of Kian, at least four eyewitnesses said the 11th grader and son of an overseas Filipino worker who supported President Duterte was murdered. He was given a gun and was told to run, witnesses said.

The autopsy results support this theory. He was shot at the back three times, with no indications that he fought back.

Caloocan City Bishop Pablo David condemned the killing.

‘I don’t believe the police story that Kian Loyd, the grade 11 boy, died because he fought back and engaged three policemen in a shootout using a caliber 45,’ he said in an interview published by The Philippine Star.

‘The CCTV footage showed he was already in their custody. How could he fight back? I am therefore glad that the mayor took the initiative to come up with an independent investigation,’ David also said.

On a rainy Monday night on 21 August 2017, people went out to the People Power Monument in Quezon City to condemn the death of Kian and others before him.

The rally coincided with the 34th death anniversary of former senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr, a man who stood against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Human rights group Hustisya (Justice) said the Philippines has become a nation of orphans and grieving parents because of Duterte’s drug war in the country.

‘We call for justice for Kian Loyd delos Santos, the 32 persons killed in Bulacan, and the almost every hour killing in the poor communities of Metro Manila. There should not be an ounce of doubt that we call for justice, whether they be involved in drugs or not,’ said Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of Hustisya.

Hernandez called on the people to be vigilant, and ‘not wait until nothing’s left but the drug lords and the powerful who reign on the impunity and injustice against thousands.’

‘We call on the people not to fear to call to stop the killings. Let us hear the cries of the children, the parents who bury their children. The everyday murders have silenced thousands,’ she said.

Like the others before him, Kian too cried for his life. He was 17 years old.