Ob­sta­cle to in­ves­ti­ga­tions


ONE ob­sta­cle to in­ves­ti­ga­tions into re­cent killings is the ab­sence of wit­nesses or the fail­ure of fam­ily mem­bers or per­sons with knowl­edge on pos­si­ble mo­tive to come for­ward.

The killing of Grade 11 pupil Kian Loyd de­los San­tos by po­lice­men be­came a ral­ly­ing point for cit­i­zens protest­ing the spate of killings of those sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the drug trade. His fu­neral pro­ces­sion last Satur­day was joined by hun­dreds of peo­ple call­ing for jus­tice for the 17-yearold stu­dent and an end to il­le­gal drugs-re­lated killings.

The case of de­los San­tos was dif­fer­ent in some ways from other sim­i­lar deaths. First, his par­ents, Saldy and Lorenza de­los San­tos, had a sit-down with Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte yes­ter­day, or two days af­ter their son’s burial. Not all such killings get the at­ten­tion of the Pres­i­dent. If they do, it may be for Duterte to in­sist on the need to go af­ter those in the il­le­gal drugs trade. Re­ports on the par­ents’ meet­ing with Duterte said the Pres­i­dent was in­clined to be­lieve there was po­lice abuse and he promised the par­ents that the po­lice­men, if proven guilty, will stay in jail.

Sec­ond, un­like in­ves­ti­ga­tions into other killings, there were wit­nesses to events im­me­di­ately lead­ing to de­los San­tos’s death and these wit­nesses are be­ing pro­tected by the Se­nate from threats to their safety. Fam­i­lies of other vic­tims would rather keep their mouths shut be­cause they lacked re­sources to seek jus­tice or they feared for their own safety should they de­mand ac­tion. The de­los San­tos cou­ple has made pub­lic their com­mit­ment to seek jus­tice for their son who was dragged to an al­ley by po­lice­men, told to hold a gun to re­sist ar­rest, then shot twice in the head.

There have been killings in the past that did not have wit­nesses, did not have video record­ings of events. There have been cases of griev­ing fam­i­lies feel­ing alone and iso­lated, that they had no one to talk to, not the po­lice and not the Pres­i­dent.

The killing of for­mer jour­nal­ist Michael D. Marasi­gan and his brother Cristo­pher last Aug. 3 by two gun­men on a mo­tor­cy­cle was one such case where there were no wit­nesses and no de­vel­op­ment so far in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Michael Marasi­gan was a com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant to some govern­ment of­fi­cials when he was killed. Cristo­pher acted as his driver. While their deaths were not tagged as drug-re­lated, there has been no move­ment in the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion on mo­tive or master­mind. Not a hint as to why they were killed.

Any se­ri­ous ef­fort to put an end to these killings must con­sider cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere of trust so fam­i­lies of those killed and wit­nesses would have the courage to speak up and aid in the i n vest i gat i o n .

Duterte’s prom­ise to go af­ter the po­lice­men-killers of Kian Loyd de­los San­tos is a sig­nal to law en­forcers to not abuse their pow­ers. But there must be more that can be done to al­low wit­nesses to come out and griev­ing fam­i­lies to de­mand jus­tice with­out fear of re­tal­i­a­tion.

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