MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Wednesday said the death of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City last week was "blown out of proportion" by various groups, the media and social media users.
During a budget hearing at the House of Representatives, Aguirre took a swipe at groups which he said have exaggerated the 12th grader's death, noting that they have refrained from expressing sympathy for victims of rape and other crimes.
Aguirre called the groups "partial," and said they continuously find ways to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Giyera ito, magkakaroon talaga ng casualty whether adult or children... 'Pag giyera, hindi talaga maiiwasan ng collateral damage," Aguirre said.
He added that out of deaths under the administration's drug war, this was the first time that evidence of police violence surfaced.
He said Delos Santos' death was an "exception to the rule," a statement that several lawmakers opposed, including Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago.
The teen's shooting on Aug. 16 has prompted public outrage amid evidence suggesting that the boy was executed.
CCTV footage showed police dragging Delos Santos to the spot where he was later shot dead. Witnesses also said that before the boy was killed, police gave him a gun and told him to run for his life.
Two of three officers implicated in the killing have since admitted that it was them who were captured in the CCTV footage dragging Delos Santos, according to the Philippine National Police - Internal Affairs Service.
Autopsy findings of the Public Attorneys Office also suggested that the boy was shot three times while on the ground helpless.
The Caloocan City police have said that Delos Santos was a drug runner for his father and uncle, an allegation that the boy’s family denied. The police also presented a witness, Renato “Nono” Loveras, who allegedly did transactions with the boy.
AGUIRRE, PAO QUESTION HONTIVEROS' CUSTODY OF WITNESSES
Meanwhile, Aguirre and Public Attorneys Office chief Percida Acosta pointed out that Sen. Risa Hontiveros has no power to take custody of the witnesses in Delos Santos' killing.
The witnesses should be placed under the Philippine National Police or the Witness Protection Program of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), they said.
The NBI has obtained their statements.
DOJ SEEKS BUDGET HIKE FOR BODY VS EJKs
At the hearing, the Department of Justice asked for a budget raise to fund an inter-agency committee which deals with victims of extrajudicial killings.
The House appropriations committee asked Aguirre if Administrative Order (AO) No. 35, which created the body, covers victims of the drug war who were killed by state forces.
The justice secretary said drug-related killings are not included in the definition of extrajudicial killings under AO 35. He said only victims who are advocates or members of group related to politics, agrarian reform, employment and other sectors, as well as members of the media, were included.
When asked if the definition could be amended, Aguirre said it might not be possible because the "special coverage" of AO 35 might be lost if the definition of extrajudicial killings is expanded to include other slay victims. --Report from Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News