MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday distanced itself from the comment made by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that the the killing of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City last week was "blown out of proportion."
Asked to comment on Aguirre’s statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said there is “depth and seriousness” in the death of the Grade 11 student.
“That is the opinion of Secretary Aguirre, but from the Palace’s point of view, this is a serious matter and we have given it due attention,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“On the other hand, it is also wise to make sure that everything is continually [put into] perspective.”
During a budget hearing at the House of Representatives, the justice secretary took a swipe at groups which he said have exaggerated the 11th grader's death.
He said some groups 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," he said.
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 last week 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.
A separate autopsy conducted by the PNP, however, concluded that Delos Santos sustained two gunshot wounds to the head.
The PNP Crime Laboratory said the downward trajectory of the gunshots does not automatically mean that the teen was on the ground when he was shot. A PNP medico legal officer also said that a “finishing shot” is impossible as they did not find soot or stippling that would suggest that the minor was shot at close range.
The PNP probe also revealed that Delos Santos tested negative for gunpowder residue, a finding which could negate the Caloocan policemen’s claim that the boy shot at the cops which supposedly prompted the exchange of fire.
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.
Despite growing public outrage over the boy’s death, President Rodrigo Duterte has said that his war on drugs will continue, even as he has expressed doubts on the police’s version of the events that led to Delos Santos’ killing.