MANILA – More than a thousand mourners attended a funeral procession in a northern Manila suburb on Saturday for a high school student whose killing a week earlier by anti-drug officers has caused rare public outrage about the country’s war on drugs.
Kian Loyd delos Santos was dragged by plainclothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in northern Manila, shot in the head and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses whose accounts appeared to be backed up by CCTV footage.
The death of the 17-year-old has drawn huge domestic attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge the authorities deny.
“I came to support the family. I want justice for Kian and all victims — including my son,” said Katherine David, 35, whose 21-year-old son was shot dead by police with two other men in January.
Mourners, some of them wearing white shirts displaying the words “Justice for Kian,” held flowers, small flags and placards denouncing the killing as the procession including vans and motorbikes moved out of delos Santos’ home in Caloocan.
Delos Santos’ flower-draped coffin passed slowly through narrow streets on a flatbed truck with black-and-red tarps on each side displaying the words “Run, Kian, run” and “Stop the killings.”
The cortege made a brief stop in front of a police station where three police officers involved in the killing of delos Santos are assigned, then proceeded to the church.
The parents and lawyers of delos Santos filed a murder complaint against the three anti-narcotics policemen on Friday.
If accepted, the complaint would follow at least two cases filed last year against police over President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of Filipinos, outraged human rights groups and alarmed Western governments.
“We march today to bring Kian to his final resting place and to support the call for justice for all victims of Duterte’s fascist drug war,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the left-wing activist group Bayan (Nation), in a statement. “We call for accountability of the police officers directly involved in the killings as well as accountability of the commander in chief who sanctioned the killings.”
A member of Rise Up, a Manila-based coalition of church-related groups opposing the drug war, said families of about 20 victims joined the procession.
David believes the response to delos Santos’ killing marks a turning point in the opposition to the drug war. “There’s been a big change. Before, police could kill and nobody paid attention. Now people are starting to show support and sympathy,” she said.