MANILA — Under overcast skies and in the presence of some family members, the remains of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, among the most recognizable victims of Duterte’s drug war, were exhumed in a quiet ceremony at the La Loma Cemetery in Caloocan Monday morning.
This comes a day before the 5th anniversary of his death on Tuesday and as the 5-year lease for his apartment tomb expires.
Kian was killed on August 16, 2017 in Caloocan by cops.
He was accused of being a drug runner who supposedly resisted arrest and fought back against the cops, in what is locally known as “nanlaban.”
But surveillance footage, eyewitness accounts and autopsy results revealed he was killed by the police.
An eyewitness said he was pleading for his life because he needed to take an exam the next day.
Three cops were convicted of murder in 2018 over Kian’s death. They were sentenced to up to 40 years in prison but their case is on appeal.
Fr. Flavie Villanueva, founder of Program Paghilom, led the exhumation.
Also present were some of his relatives, including his sister.
After a brief prayer, Kian’s remains were removed from the tomb, placed on a body bag and loaded onto a van which will take the remains to forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun who will conduct another autopsy.
Kian’s remains are being removed from his apartment tomb and placed onto a body bag. His remains will be re-autopsied by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun. Prior autopsies showed he died of 3 gunshot wounds and was shot while kneeling down.
Prior autopsies showed Kian died of 3 gunshot wounds and was shot while kneeling down, negating the narrative of the Caloocan police.
Fr. Flavie says that by exhuming Kian’s remains, they hope to know more about what happened.
“We hope to uncover a deeper truth. We hope to uncover what took place and as we have revealed in the past, pahintulutan nating magsalita ‘yung mga kalansay nanahimik ng ilang taon,” he told reporters shortly after the exhumation.
“Alam natin na na-autopsy pero ‘yung autopsy ay ginawa lang sa bahay. Ngayon ay mas masusi nating titingnan kung ano at paano, sa larangan ng siyensya, makikita ang pagpaslang sa kanya,” he added.
Fr. Flavie and Dr. Fortun have previously led efforts to re-autopsy the remains of drug war victims whose death certificates indicated they died of natural causes but whose skulls actually bore gunshot wounds.
KIAN — PROOF OF EXTRAJUDICAL KILLING OR PH JUSTICE SYSTEM WORKING?
Human rights groups consider Kian’s death proof that extrajudicial killings in the Philippines exist but the Philippine government has been heralding the 2018 conviction of 3 cops as proof that the domestic justice system is working.
They raised Kian’s case before the International Criminal Court in asking for a deferment of the ICC Prosecutor’s probe on the drug war killings in the country, claiming that it is investigating drug war killings.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan halted the probe in November last year but after finding that the country is not investigating or has not investigated alleged crimes against humanity, it asked an ICC Pre-Trial Chamber that it be allowed to resume its probe.
The Philippine government has until September 8 to comment on the request.
So far, the Philippine Justice department’s drug war review has yielded a matrix of 52 cases while the results of around 300 cases they looked into have not been revealed to the public.
But human rights groups say these figures are too little compared to the thousands killed in the drug war.
Official figures show more than 6,000 drug suspects have been killed in police operations. Rights groups estimate a far bigger figure, including those killed by unidentified perpetrators or killed vigilante-style.
Kian’s case, they point out, is the only conviction for drug war deaths so far.
Kian’s uncle, Randy, echoes these sentiments, asking why nobody else have been convicted over the deaths of other drug war victims.
“Bakit si Kian lang? Anim na taon na. Kung nagtatrabaho at talagang hinahanap ang hustisya, sana nadagdagan na,” he said, adding that more than 3 cops should have been held to account, including those who ordered the killing.
Kian’s remains are the 61st to be exhumed under Program Paghilom’s Project Arise, which helps families of drug war victims recover remains of their loved ones after their lease contracts have lapsed.
Other remains were cremated after autopsy but Kian’s family has yet to decide what to do with his.
Randy himself has been an active volunteer of Project Arise.
After facilitating the exhumation of dozens of other drug war victims, it felt different now that he was overseeing the exhumation of his own kin.
“Medyo mabigat kanina. Di ko mapigil din ang aking emosyon makita ‘yung aking mahal sa buhay na ganun na ang itsura niya. Kanina bumabalot sa isipan ko ‘yung mukha ni Kian, bago siya pinatay, na isang estudyante. Pero ‘yun na dumaan kanina kaya hinipo ko na lang siya. Mabigat para sa akin,” he said.
Five years on, the body of his once-healthy 17-year-old nephew may have been reduced to bones but for Randy, Kian’s memory and legacy will live on.
“Siguro siya yung naging mukha ano…Siya ‘yung sumampal sa mukha nating lahat at nagpatanggap na sobra na ‘yung mga patayan e. Libu-libo na yung napapatay e. Siguro, sa pamamagitan ng kanyang kwento, tinanggap ng lahat na merong extrajudicial killings, na may pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan mula sa mga alagad ng batas,” he said.