MANILA – Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Thursday said the recent spate of teen deaths were not “isolated,” saying the youth may have become deliberate targets of extrajudicial killings.
In a statement, the fierce administration critic renewed her call for “prompt and impartial investigations, as well as prosecutions” of the killings, “especially in light of this phenomenon involving child and young victims.”
“It is preposterous and downright horrendous therefore for the President and his spin doctors to still claim that the killings of children and the young are isolated cases and do not form policy,” said De Lima, currently held on drug charges.
“Malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw sa tanghaling tapat na sadyang tinatarget at pinupuntirya rin ang mga bata at kabataan sa mga patayan sa ilalim ng giyera laban sa droga. Kung bata ka, lalo pa kung mahirap, maaari kang maging sunod na biktima ng pagpatay ng pulis man o vigilante,” she added.
[It is clear as day that children and young people are being targeted in killings under the drug war. If you’re young and poor, you might be the next victim of slays by the police or vigilantes].
De Lima joined her Senate colleagues in condemning the killings of Kian Loyd Delos Santos, 17, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and Reynaldo De Guzman, 14.
Delos Santos and Arnaiz, both said to have been found in possession of illegal drugs, were killed in separate incidents last month after they allegedly resisted pursuing police.
Delos Santos was shot dead in an anti-drug operation on Aug. 16. Arnaiz was killed after he allegedly robbed a taxi driver on Aug. 18.
Forensic analysis found a suspicious pattern in the killings, including indications that they were shot when already on the ground.
Circumstances surrounding the death of De Guzman, Arnaiz's companion when he left his Cainta, Rizal home on Aug. 17, meanwhile remain unclear.
He was found Wednesday in Nueva Ecija with multiple stab wounds, his head wrapped in packing tape.
Malacañang earlier condemned the killings and vowed justice, saying police officials proven to have committed abuses would be held accountable.
In her statement, De Lima made reference to a supposed “Caloocan Death Squad,” citing the deaths of 21-year-old Jonathan Jervoso and his friend Jervy Sta. Maria, 25, in Camarin, Caloocan in the hands of supposed vigilantes on July 30 last year.
The two were shot dead by unidentified assailants on board three motorbikes while they were standing in front of a store.
“When policemen arrived on the scene of the crime, they declared that the same was committed by the so-called Caloocan Death Squad,” said De Lima, who talked about the alleged hit squad during a Senate hearing in October.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) had said last year that drug syndicates may be behind the death squad.