Death of a teenager: God bless the Philippines

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 22 2017 05:24 PM

The killing of a 17-year-old student at the hands of police officers has earned the condemnation of various sectors including the outgoing head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. For one priest, however, what is alarming is that many people approve of the killing. 

"What is more disappointing, in which the bishops also point to, is that so many people express their approval for what happened. That to me, parang signal yan ng tinatawag kong moral bankruptcy,” Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, said in a DZMM interview. 

"Hindi na natin pwedeng ihiwalay yung tama at saka mali."

Last week, Kian Loyd Delos Santos was allegedly dragged by policemen in plainclothes and brought to a place where he was shot dead. The police officers who conducted the operation maintained that the boy fired at them first with a .45 caliber pistol.

A police official also claimed the teen was a drug runner, based on the latest police intelligence report. 

His family vehemently denied the boy's involvement in the illegal drug trade. They also denied that he was armed.

"Itong mga patayan na ito ay talagang nakakaalarma. Parang we are no longer secured and yet the great irony was we were supposed to launch this aggressive campaign against drugs to make people feel more secure and yet the opposite [is] what's happening now. People are less secured because you can be dragged out of your house at anytime on suspicion of being an addict or pusher," Fr. Aquino said.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte implied that policemen involved in the anti-drug operation should go to jail if they are found guilty of killing the teen.

"Napakaraming nagkukunsinti sa mga pangyayari. I am so happy that the president made the statement that he did last night because it is enough for the president to say I am not going to protect you if you violate the law and that's a clear signal to the police that they must operate within the bounds of the law," Fr. Aquino said.

'IS THIS THE NEW NORMAL?'

The rising number of people killed in the government’s anti-drug efforts has prompted CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas to say that the country is in chaos.

In the interview, Fr. Aquino said the killing should serve as a wake-up call to the police force that "impunity cannot go on."

"Ito yung sinasabi ni Bishop Soc: Ito na ba ang bagong tama? Is this the new normal, na yung dating maliwanag na mali ay tinatanggap na nating moral, na normal?" he said. 

"Sana wag nang palalain ang pangyayari by making announcements or findings or presenting witnesses to say that Kian was a courier or that he was a runner or that he was an accomplice," he said.

He also stressed the importance of conscientization, "para magising ang kalooban at konsensiya ng mga tao to see this is wrong."

"Ang talagang nakaalarma--which the cardinal and the bishops point out--parang tanggap na ng bayan na ganito na ang bagong ayos. Hindi pwedeng ganyan," he said.

While he supports the call for a multi-sectoral dialogue, he is unsure if people would be willing to participate.

"I am all for it. In fact, it is a very welcome initiative. The only question is - are people open for dialogue?" 

He cited as example the dissenting opinions on social media. Those siding with the boy’s family are labeled as “dilawan”, while those who support his killing are called 'Dutertard'.

“When people start to label each other like that, no dialogue is really possible. The basic precondition of dialogue is the willingness to listen and the willingness to admit that I am wrong,” he said. 

He also hopes that media will continue to report cases like Kian's.

"I'm praying and pleading that media should not give up on this. Reports like this become normal so they are not news anymore. But relegating them to the status of as non-news makes our people accept them as normal and that is exactly the perversity that we should avoid from happening," he said.