3 Filipino po­lice­men con­victed of mur­der in bru­tal drug war

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - International Business -

A PHILIP­PINE court found three po­lice of­fi­cers guilty on Thurs­day of killing a stu­dent they al­leged was a drug dealer, in the first known such con­vic­tion un­der the pres­i­dent’s deadly crack­down on drugs.

Re­gional Trial Court Pre­sid­ing Judge Rodolfo Azu­cena Jr. ruled the of­fi­cers mur­dered Kian Loyd de­los San­tos dur­ing raid in a slum in Manila last year. It re­jected the po­lice­men’s claim that the 17-yearold fired back while re­sist­ing ar­rest.

The court sen­tenced the of­fi­cers to up to 40 years in prison with­out pa­role, al­though they can ap­peal. Aside from the prison term, the po­lice­men, who ap­peared in court in hand­cuffs and in yel­low de­tainee shirts, were or­dered to pay dam­ages to San­tos’s im­pov­er­ished fam­ily.

Duterte’s crack­down, which has left thou­sands of sus­pects dead, re­port­edly in clashes with the po­lice, has alarmed West­ern gov­ern­ments and UN rights ex­perts and hor­ri­fied hu­man rights watch­dogs. The volatile pres­i­dent has stressed he does not con­done ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, al­though he has re­peat­edly threat­ened drug sus­pects with death and has as­sured po­lice he would back them up in ways that hu­man rights watch­dogs say have en­cour­aged law en­forcers to act with im­punity.

“A shoot-first, think-later at­ti­tude can never be coun­te­nanced in a civilised so­ci­ety. Never has homi­cide or mur­der been a func­tion of law en­force­ment,” Azu­cena said in his rul­ing. “The pub­lic peace is never pred­i­cated on the cost of hu­man life.”

Duterte’s gov­ern­ment called the rul­ing “a tri­umph of jus­tice,” which dis­proved crit­ics’ as­ser­tion that the ju­di­ciary was a rub­ber stamp.

“As we have al­ways stressed, the con­duct of the gov­ern­ment’s an­ti­il­le­gal drug cam­paign is based on ac­count­abil­ity. There­fore, we do not – and we will never – tol­er­ate un­jus­ti­fied po­lice vi­o­lence, bru­tal­ity or killing,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman and chief le­gal coun­sel Sal­vador Panelo told a news con­fer­ence.

Op­po­si­tion Sen. Risa Hon­tiveros, who has railed against the drug killings, said the court de­ci­sion proved that ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings un­der Duterte’s crack­down were re­ally be­ing com­mit­ted by rogue mem­bers of the na­tional po­lice force.

“This is a light in the dark­ness,” Hon­tiveros said in a state­ment. “De­spite the grue­some cli­mate of killing and im­punity in the coun­try, this ver­dict sends the mes­sage that there is hope and jus­tice. And we will fight for more light and truth un­til the dark­e­ness can­not over­come them.”

Hon­tiveros said the num­bers of drug killings, which started to rise when Duterte took of­fice in mid2016 and launched his trade­mark war against drugs, could not have reached “cat­a­strophic lev­els if these killings did not have a sin­is­ter prin­ci­ple and pol­icy be­hind them.”

Duterte and po­lice of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly stated there was no state pol­icy to kill drug sus­pects il­le­gally. – As­so­ci­ated Press

Photo: AP

Ac­tivists light can­dles in front of a pic­ture of 17-year-old stu­dent Kian Loyd de­los San­tos dur­ing a rally in Caloocan, Manila, Philip­pines, on Thurs­day.

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