MANILA, Philippines — Murder complaints were filed Friday against Philippine police officers in connection with the killing of a teenager that has sparked an outcry against the president’s anti-drug crackdown, which has left thousands dead.
Lawyer Persida Rueda-Acosta of the Public Attorney’s Office said murder and torture complaints were filed with prosecutors against three officers and their commander in the Aug. 16 shooting death of Kian Loyd delos Santos in a Manila suburb.
The 17-year-old student, who wanted to become a police officer, was one of more than 80 drug and crime suspects who were killed in purported gunbattles with police over three days last week in the bloodiest period of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. The killings have sparked alarm and investigations by the Senate and others.
Anger and protests have focused on the killing of delos Santos, who police say was a drug dealer who opened fire with a pistol during a raid. His family, however, says he was mercilessly killed by police as he was pleading for his life and telling the officers he had an exam in school the next day.
“I wish they had just shot him in the foot. Somehow, I could accept that,” the slain teenager’s mother, Lorenza delos Santos, told reporters Thursday after attending a Senate hearing where the implicated police officers were summoned.
“But why did they finish off my son just like that without evidence?” she asked in tears.
During the televised hearing, Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon expressed astonishment at police claims that most of the more than 3,200 drug suspects they have gunned down since the crackdown began last year fought back, prompting law enforcers to shoot them.
Aside from those deaths, more than 2,000 others have died in drug-related killings, including attacks by motorcycle-riding masked gunmen, who human rights groups allege are policemen in disguise or their civilian hit men. Police deny such claims.
Delos Santos’s grieving parents and some neighbors have pointed to a village security camera video that shows a man, who they say was delos Santos, being held by both arms and dragged away from near his home shortly before he was shot in a dark, muddy alley near a canal. They said the video showing him in police custody belies the police claim that he tried to escape and that he had a pistol with him.
Police officers linked to the killing acknowledged in the Senate hearing that they were the ones in the video but said the man they were dragging away was a civilian informant who was trying to hide his face from villagers out of fear.
Duterte has expressed extraordinary support for police enforcing his crackdown, promising to pardon them if they are convicted to keep them out of jail. Amid the growing outcry, however, he ordered the arrest of the policemen linked to the killing of delos Santos, who is to be buried Saturday amid planned protests.
U.N. rights expert Agnes Callamard has tweeted that the student was murdered, citing an autopsy report that showed he was shot at least twice in the head, apparently at close range. Callamard, a vocal critic of the widespread drug killings, said delos Santos is the “latest symbol of a massive, government-led, human rights crisis.”
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano and video journalist Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.