Panelo admits: Kian’s killing can never be justified

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2017 06:55 PM

Mrs. Lorenza Delos Santos, mother of Kian Delos Santos, weeps as she is surrounded by Kian's classmates during the wake at the family’s residence in Caloocan, Friday. The 17-year-old Grade 11 student was killed during an anti-drug operation, when he allegedly fought back against the arresting officers. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The chief presidential legal counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos in an anti-drug sweep in Caloocan City last week can never be justified.

Duterte’s chief legal aide Salvador Panelo Jr. made this assertion amid allegations that Delos Santos served as a drug runner for his father and uncles.

In a radio interview, Panelo said even if the allegations against Delos Santos and his relatives were true, it was not enough justification for his killing.

“Maraming nagsasabi na drug runner daw iyong si ano... iyong bata. But kahit na drug runner iyan, you cannot just kill somebody like that,” Panelo said.

(Many are saying that (Kian) was a drug runner. Even if he was a drug runner, you cannot just kill somebody like that.)

Panelo said the President, while supportive of the police force, does not allow abuse in power.

“Kailangan nanlaban siya. Eh kung hindi naglaban bakit naman siya papatayin? Kaya hindi papayag si Presidente ng ganoon-ganoon lang,” he said.

(He should have fought back. If he did not fight back, why kill him? The President would not let such incident pass.)

Delos Santos was among the scores of individuals killed in anti-drug sweeps in Bulacan, Manila, and Camanava area last week, considered the deadliest since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

Public outrage is growing over the killing of Delos Santos by Caloocan police after witnesses said he was killed even though he was already pleading for his life.

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage also allegedly showed cops manhandling Delos Santos moments before he was killed and found dead in the spot where he was supposedly brought. The witnesses said before Delos Santos was shot dead, the police gave the boy a gun and told him to run away.

However, the police have said that Delos Santos was a drug runner for his father and uncles. They even presented a witness, Renato “Nono” Loveras, who allegedly did transactions with the boy.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said Delos Santos should not have died in the operation even if he had indeed links to the drug trade.

Supporters of the administration, led by Caloocan City Assistant Prosecutor Darwin Cañete, are also now questioning whether it was indeed Delos Santos who was in the CCTV footage.

The Palace had earlier described Delos Santos’ killing as “isolated,” but human rights groups said the 17-year-old Grade 11 student was not the first minor to be killed in the government’s war on drugs.

The Department of Justice and Commission on Human Rights are set to to conduct probes into Delos Santos’ killing. The Senate majority has also expressed interest in holding a probe into the boy’s death and the way the government’s war on drugs is being carried out.

The chief legal counsel said he expects political opponents of the President to “ride” on the issue.

”[Inaasahan] ko na sa kanila iyon. They will jump at any issue to demolish this presidency. Natural na sa kanila iyon,” he said.

(I already expect that they will jump at any issue to demolish this presidency. That’s natural.)

“Mukhang hindi na sila titigil, parati na silang ganoon. But they—we have, but people don’t believe that naman eh. Eh, iyan ang magiging problema nila. Ang tao ay galit sa kanila, hindi naniniwala sa kanila, sa Presidente naniniwala eh.”

(It looks like they won’t stop. They are always like that. But the people don’t believe that. That’s going to be their problem - the people are mad at them. They don’t believe them. They believe the President.)