#NeverForget: Drug war victims remembered on Kian Delos Santos’ birthday

May 27, 2022 - 1:44 PM
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Kian delos Santos
File photo of Caloocan Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos from his Facebook account.

“#NeverForget his name.”

As Filipinos marked the 22nd birthday of eleventh grader Kian Delos Santos, calls to remember the government’s drug war victims were made online.

Freelance photographer Raffy Lerma on Thursday commemorated what would have been the teenager’s birthday on May 26 by sharing a picture of his tomb marker on Twitter.

“Kian Loyd delos Santos would have turned 22 today,” he wrote.

Lerma also shared more details about the case in his succeeding tweets and ended his post with a quote from Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr‘s ruling, who found the three police officers guilty of murder.

“Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of life,” he was quoted as writing.

Lerma likewise added the following hashtags to his post: “#rememberkian #drugwar #stopthekillings #philippines”

His post has earned 40,400 likes, over 6,400 retweets and more than 600 quote tweets so far.

It also gained comments from some Filipinos who commemorated Delos Santos’s birthday.

“#NeverForget his name,” a Twitter user responded.

“Rest in peace, Kian. The first-ever rally I’ve attended was for you. We will never forget and we will never stop fighting for justice that you and other 30K victims deserve,” another online user said.

“Remember their names,” wrote a different Filipino.

“Remember this. REMEMBER THIS, PHILIPPINES,” another Twitter user said.

“The first time I heard the news about this guy back in 2017, this really broke my heart and made me cry of how much injustice he faced bc (because) of EJK. #NeverForget,” a different Filipino likewise wrote with a broken heart emoji.

‘War on drugs’

Delos Santos was among the young victims of the bloody “war on drugs” launched by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

He was a Grade 11 student from Caloocan City whose life was cut short when police officers punched him several times, dragged him through the dirt and made to kneel in a one-time big-time drug operation on Aug. 16, 2017.

Delos Santos was also given a gun and ordered to fire it before running away. He was then shot dead.

Two witnesses claimed that they heard the teenager beg for his life.

“One of the two police officers held Kian by the neck while the other one his hands… Kian said, ‘Tama na po, may exam pa ako bukas’. But they ignored him,” one of the witnesses said in his affidavit.

“The group of men brought the teenager to a dark dead-end near our house. At first, they were talking to the boy. Later on, one of the men pushed the teenager to the ground and he shouted, ‘Huwag po! Huwag po!’” another witness wrote.

A year after his death, Delos Santos’ killers were sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or 40 years imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

But prior to that, two of them received promotions from their posts which were heavily condemned by a human rights organization.

Last year, rights groups sought accountability for other victims of the drug war.

Local rights watchdog Karapatan urged the International Criminal Court to “listen and act on the pleas of the families of drug war victims for justice.”

In November 2021, the chief prosecutor of ICC suspended its probe of suspected rights abuses in the government’s drug war following its request.

READ: ICC prosecutor suspends probe into Philippines drugs war

ICC said that it would continue to seek additional information from the Philippines.

Prior to that, the Philippine government filed a deferral request and claimed that it had already begun its own investigations into the killings.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines urged the ICC to continue its probe as the delay “further victimizes those who gave evidence in support of ICC probe.”

The investigation will look into whether Duterte has committed alleged crimes against humanity in the drug war he initiated.