First convictions for extrajudicial killings backed by Duterte

Three policemen were convicted for the killing of a 17-year-old man mistaken for a drug courier.  For Fr Edwin A. Gariguez, the sentence “is a victory of justice over the tyrannical war on drugs being pursued by the present government.” So far, 54 minors have been killed in the war.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Caloocan City Regional Trial Court Branch 125 sentenced three agents to life in prison for their involvement in the death of Kian Delos Santos (picture 2) last year.

The killing of Mr Santos, who was mistaken for a drug courier, occurred on 16 August 2017, during the ‘One time, Big Time’ anti-drug operation.

The extrajudicial killing of the 17-year-old man triggered public outrage. In the weeks that followed, the controversy forced President Rodrigo Duterte to put a temporary stop to his controversial war on drugs.

Arnel Oares, Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz (picture 1) are the first law enforcement agents to be convicted of murder committed during the campaign. Their colleague Renato Perez Loveras, aka "Nono", is still on the run.

The agents can expect 20 and 40 years behind bars, without the possibility of parole, and will have to compensate the victim's family.

The verdict “is a victory of justice over the tyrannical war on drugs being pursued by the present government,” said Fr Edwin A. Gariguez (picture 3), speaking to AsiaNews.

Fr Gariguez is the executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Caritas Philippines, the main charity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The conviction is “clear proof that the war on drugs is victimising innocent people and that the police involvement in the extrajudicial killings is truly happening,” the clergyman noted.

The Catholic Church is among the few voices that have complained about those killed in the war on drugs. For his part, President Duterte has reacted to the criticism of extrajudicial killings by repeatedly attacking bishops and priests with harsh words.

“The Church, when it criticises the government's war on drug, is performing its moral obligation and its prophetic mission,” Fr Gariguez explained. “It has no political motive just to malign the powers-that-be.”

In fact, “The Church has to speak out and express its moral outrage over the killings, especially of innocent victims, like in the case of Kian.”

A report by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) found that, from July 2016 to October 2018, some 4,999 people were killed in government anti-drug operations.

Human rights activists claim that the actual number is closer to 13,000 and that two-thirds are victims of summary executions by "death squads", paid killers backed by police.

The Children's Legal Rights and Development Centre said Kian was just one of 54 minors, aged one to 17, killed so far in the war on drugs.