MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said it respects the move of various groups to mount protests, amid growing public outrage over the death of Kian Loyd Delos Santos whom police accused of peddling illegal drugs in Caloocan City.
“The rally for Kian is part of the people’s right to assemble, express their views and air their grievances,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“The President has said time and again that he will allow mass protest as long as it does not cause public inconvenience or compromise public safety. This is consistent with PRRD’s philosophy that criticism – good or bad – is part of the territory of anyone working in the government.”
Abella, however, appealed to the protesters to cooperate with the police, “who are expected to exercise maximum tolerance.”
Protests are set Monday, beginning with a march for Delos Santos from Sta. Quiteria Church in Baesa, Quezon City going to the exact place in Caloocan where the teen died. The march will start 4:30 p.m.
The main protest on Monday will be meanwhile at the People Power Monument where various groups calling for a change of approach in the drug war will hold a program from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Outside Manila, protests are to be held in Metro Colon, Cebu City; and Peñaranda Park, Legazpi City. Both rallies aim to call for justice for Delos Santos' death.
Another protest is also scheduled on August 23 at Camp Crame in Quezon City, while "Kapihan Against Dictatorship" will be held on August 26.
Delos Santos, whom police accused of being a drug courier, was killed in an alleged shootout with law enforcers during the bloodiest week of the government's anti-narcotics drive.
The protests coincide with the country’s celebration of Ninoy Aquino Day, which commemorates the heroism of the late senator who was assassinated in August 21, 1983 upon his return to the Philippines during the Marcos regime.
Aquino is the father of President Rodrigo Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.
Several witnesses claimed Kian was mauled by policemen, given a gun and told to run for his life. CCTV footage also suggested that cops manhandled Delos Santos after his arrest.
The chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, said 3 officers involved in the raid have been relieved from their post and placed on restrictive custody.
Cops insisted 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.
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, Senate, and Commission on Human Rights are set to to conduct probes into Delos Santos’ killing.
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.