Justice for Kian: Stop Extrajudicial Killings

August 26, 2017
Reference, Kabataang maka-Bayan (KmB / Pro-People Youth)

Kabataang maka-Bayan or KmB / Pro-People Youth strongly condemns the use of state-sanctioned violence against the people of the Philippines. Extrajudicial killings are a blatant violation of human rights and due process of the law. As a progressive youth organization, we stand in solidarity with the people demanding justice and accountability for the unlawful death of Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Kian, a 17-year-old high school student, was shot and killed on August 16, 2017 by three police officers during a drug raid that claimed the lives of 81 other people in Caloocan City, Philippines. During a senate hearing on August 23rd, Senior Superintendent and former Caloocan City police chief, Chito Bersaluna, claimed that Kian’s drug involvement was “validated” by social media. The Philippine National Police further added that during the raid, Kian returned gunfire. However, CCTV footage and eyewitness reports contradict the police reports. A security video shows officers carrying his body across a basketball court to where his body was later found; meanwhile, witnesses say that the teen was unarmed. Recent reports have also been released, confirming that Kian was tested negative for gunpowder, further contradicting police statements.

With this case unraveling, many families and local community organizations are appalled and disturbed by the fact that an 11th grade student was wrongfully murdered and framed to be a drug user as a means to further the punitive agenda of the drug war. Today on August 26th, over 5,000 mourners along with his family participated in his funeral march in Caloocan City. In remembrance of his life, people fashioned white shirts that said, “Justice for Kian.” Thousands more joined along the roads with signs that said, “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the Killings.” As the people of the Philippines are grieving and demanding for justice, Kian’s death draws more public attention to the fact that the Philippine National Police is systematically killing drug suspects without due process.

While police statistics state that at least 3,400 alleged drug dealers and users have been killed in anti-drug operations, there are an estimated 5,500 people who have been killed by extrajudicial circumstances since President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into power on June 30, 2016. Earlier this month, 67 people were shot and over 250 were arrested in Manila. With a separate incident accounting for the highest death toll in a single day, President Duterte praised this police crackdown without remorse by stating, “That’s beautiful. If we can only kill 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country.” Except it has not. This anti-drug campaign has proven deadly against those who have befallen to drug crimes due to economic disparities and those who are sick in recovery. Today, what ails this country is the increasingly ruthless and rampant violence against the people.

As a progressive organization that empowers and mobilizes the youth, Kabataang maka-Bayan or KmB / Pro-People Youth calls for swift justice for Kian Loyd delos Santos and all victims of extrajudicial killings, including 53 minors below the age of 17. This case serves as but one example of potentially hundreds of occurrences of unreliable investigative practices leading to the murder of the innocent. While we have been critical of the magnitude of the police’s wrongdoings, this unfolding case proves the actuality of those innocent framed as criminals and wrongfully killed in drug raids. How many more youth must be killed under the guise of a “war” to eradicate substance use across the country? With the irony that Kian wanted to be a police officer, it is the duty of community organizers and activists to educate and empower the youth who are conditioned to join the police and feel safe in the presence of police, but experience the exact opposite.

As youth activists and students, Kabataang maka-Bayan or KmB / Pro-People Youth supports the people of the Philippines. We support the people’s call for accountability of the three police officers involved in Kian’s death and all police officers tied to the systematic drug raids. We support the people’s call for President Duterte to denounce the erroneous methods of the Philippine National Police that target drug suspects. We support the people’s call to stop all extrajudicial killings of the poor and working class of the Philippines.

This is not simply a war on drugs. Without due process, this is a war on the people. When social media is the basis for a police investigation, trials are absent, and the death toll increases every month, this anti-drug campaign must end immediately. Addiction is a disease, not a choice and it is wrong to punish those who need recovery, not retaliation. As the police are immediately delivering the death sentence in the streets without due process, the odds of killing the innocent are too high. Whether Kian was a drug user or not, it should not result in an automatic death sentence. Condoning extrajudicial killings of citizens who are only suspected drug lords, financiers, or pushers is wrong, reckless, and a complete violation of human rights.

Although the United States and Philippines are separate entities, state-sanctioned violence is a vehicle of the same oppression, abusing power to brutalize the vulnerable and marginalized. Although President Duterte has recently softened his stance with this particular case, even leaders with high approval ratings need to be held accountable for advocating the extrajudicial killings of the poor and working class. As Filipino-Americans in the United States with an extensive history of police brutality against the youth and communities of color, we stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines calling for justice for Kian Loyd delos Santos. In support of the impartial investigation to keep those accountable, we are firmly against the state-sanctioned violence committed by the Philippine National Police and condoned by President Duterte.

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