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Pacific News Minute: Death of Teenager Prompts Protest Against President Duterte’s Drug War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Last week was the bloodiest thus far in President Rodrigo Duterte’s year-long war on drugs in the Philippines, with nearly a hundred people reported killed in and around Manila. Up to now, the crackdown has been widely popular, but the death of a 17 year old high school student last week set off the first serious protest. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


It was, police said, just another case where a drug user tried to shoot it out with the cops, and was shot and killed in self-defense. Philippine Police have shot and killed thousands of others just that way since President Duterte took office, but this time, closed circuit video and witnesses told a very different story.


The evidence shows three plain clothes officers dragging 17 year old Kian Delos Santos down an alley. He was heard to say, “Please can I go home, I have school tomorrow.” The cops placed a gun in his hand, told him to run, and then shot him in the head as he turned away. Forensic tests showed no evidence of gunshot residue on his hands, contradicting the police story that he fired first. 


Unlike so many other gruesome killings, this case sparked outrage. On Monday, thousands gathered in heavy rain to protest. Senator Lisa Hontiveros declared on the floor of the senate that President Duterte “Inspired this culture of impunity and killing. The President’s hands,” she said, “are stained by the blood of Kian.”


Several Duterte supporters crossed the floor to vote for an investigation. Up till now, President Duterte has vowed to pardon any police officers who fired first and asked questions later, but, after seeing the surveillance footage, he said that if an investigation proves that police did murder Kian de los Santos, the cops involved should “rot in jail.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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