“Please stop! I still have a test tomorrow,” these were the last words of then 17-year old Kian Delos Santos as he was murdered during the ongoing Philippine drug war. He was just a kid looking forward to his school exam the next day, yet there he was, a victim of a failed justice system. According to witnesses, Delos Santos walked around outside his house when two police officers in plainclothes blindfolded and dragged him.
They also added that he was also forced to hold a gun, fire it, and run. The police report says otherwise, stating that Kian fled when he saw police officers and directly shot them. He was then accused of being a drug runner, even if there were no evidence to prove it. Kian is just one in more than 8,000 other victims of this “war” directed at the urban poor.
The “Shoot-to-kill” policy was introduced by current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in his speeches during his inauguration in 2016. With this policy, officers would be offered a bounty for alleged dead suspects. This became his priority in the running for candidacy, for he believed that the drug problem in the country destroyed the youth’s future.
As a result, a large number of policemen resorted to drug planting and extrajudicial killing. Duterte promised that in 3-6 months, the drug problem in the country would be eradicated. However, 5 years later, the situation only became an eye-opener on how anti-poor and police/military focused the current administration is.
With this ongoing rampage, various groups such as human rights organizations took action to put a stop to these killings. As a response, Duterte commanded the police to shoot human rights activists that were said to block “justice,” which he preferred to call the killings.
According to the European Union, since the start of Duterte’s administration, human rights in the Philippines have declined. This is significant since political and human rights organization leaders are either forced out of power or are expressively attacked. Well-opinionated journalists are also not safe with this.
Understanding this situation, it can be inferred that the so-called “War On Drugs” is just a smokescreen for the administration to criminalize the poor. This also serves as an opportunity for them to paint the poor as the enemies of the state rather than as citizens to whom the government should provide service.
Freedom of expression is withheld in the Philippines due to this. A chief executive officer and a researcher of an online news website were convicted of cyber libel. To add, the most extensive broadcast media network in the country was denied franchise renewal. Both of them were known to broadcast cases of killings and injustices during the war on drugs.
Among those of more than 8,000 cases of extrajudicial killings that took place, only some were given justice. We are left to think about the number of cases that lacked witnesses to be fought for, or those that were bribed to resort to case closing. Kian Delos Santos was just a high school student who looks forward to doing great in his academics, even in his last breaths. According to those who knew him, Kian was an ambitious kid. The war on drugs did not just kill bodies, but more importantly, it killed innocent dreams and ambitions.