Mayor, bishop grill cops over Kian killing
Some of the Caloocan City police officers involved in the anti-illegal drugs operation that resulted in the death of Grade 12 student Kian delos Santos faced off with the city’s mayor and its bishop during an emergency peace and order council meeting on Saturday.
Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan and Caloocan Bishop Pablo David questioned Caloocan Police Chief Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna and recently relieved Police Community Precinct 7 Commander Amor Cerillo on the circumstances that led to Delos Santos’ death.
Delos Santos was shot dead Wednesday night by the police who claimed that the 17-year-old had fired on them when he saw them coming.
But several witnesses said the police had beaten up the boy already in their custody, gave him a gun and forced him to run before shooting him.
After the gunshots, Delos Santos was found dead, face down, on a garbage heap.
“The purpose of this investigation is to make sure that no whitewashing happens during this whole affair and to conduct a parallel investigation,” Malapitan said.
“The police (represent) the public trust,” David said. “It’s not good for the citizens (to) lose trust in the police,” he added.
Bersaluna and Cerillo said they believed their staff had acted based on preliminary evidence that Delos Santos could be a drug runner, although the operation itself was not based on such intel.
The two also said they could not completely verify if the boy had indeed shot it out with cops, adding that their reports were based only on their staff’s testimonies.
This prompted both Malapitan and David to describe their evidence as mere hearsay.
Cerillo, who said he was not at the crime scene until later, when his personnel warned him that a shootout would ensue, said they conducted the Aug. 16 operation in Barangay 160, Caloocan City, following complaints from several civilians about the area being drug-infested.
“I told them I would come over to provide reinforcement. Upon my arrival, I heard gunshots but couldn’t respond because the place was so dark,” he said.
Told that the suspect had been killed and the area cleared, Cerillo said he went to inform the barangay about the shootout, adding that based on police reports, it was PO3 Arnel Oares who had shot Delos Santos.
Oares, Cerillo and two other cops had been ordered relieved by National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde.
But a shootout meant that Delos Santos had fired back, Malapitan told Cerillo who replied that, in fact, he heard two sets of gunfire, a loud shot and a quieter one.
“If you say Oares shot Kian with his service gun, and Kian shot (him) with a .45, parehas lang ang putok noon, (the shots sound the same),” Malapitan said.
Cerillo said he could not confirm if the two sachets of “shabu” (crystal meth) allegedly found on Delos Santos was indeed the boy’s.
Not in uniform
David questioned why the police were wearing civilian clothes during the operation.
“I would have assumed they were the Bonnet Gang,” he said, referring to motorcycle-driving criminals who often cover their faces.
Cerillo had earlier said his cops were not required to wear a uniform during operations.
He also claimed that Delos Santos’ father, Saldy, was a close relative of a certain “Neneng,” whom he described as a drug runner, and that the older Delos Santos was himself a drug user.
Cerillo, however, admitted that the information was all “hearsay.”
The older Delos Santos called Cerillo’s claims “lies (meant) to ruin my name. I don’t know any Neneng.”
Despite police claims of a shootout, the CCTV footage of the incident seemed to jibe with witnesses’ accounts of the police dragging and beating the Grade 12 student before killing him.
A close friend of Delos Santos, who refused to be named, told the Inquirer that the boy had begged the cops to stop beating him, “He kept shouting, ‘Tama na po! Tama na po! Uuwi na po ako! May pasok pa po ako! (Please stop. I have to go home. I have classes tomorrow).’”
Cerillo said that according to Oares, the man being dragged in the video was not Delos Santos, but a police asset.
Bersaluna said the incident was being investigated by several agencies, including the National Police Commission and the Commission on Human Rights.
Drug users in Caloocan were getting younger while the street value of shabu was increasing, Bersaluna said, adding that of the city’s 188 barangays, only seven were not affected by the drug menace. He said the Caloocan police were apprehending 100 suspected drug users a week.
“Sometimes I think I want to resign because the drug [problem in Caloocan] doesn’t seem to let up … Honestly, sir, I also pray that someday the deaths would stop, but it’s too much,” he added.
Countered Malapitan: “You mean in spite of your many (anti-illegal drug) operations, where many people were killed, drug incidences have gone down just a little?”
“We think so, but shabu passes hands quick here in the city,” Bersaluna said.
Malapitan suggested that police operations should be coordinated with barangay officials so they could identify suspects more accurately.
“It seems hard to believe that a 17-year-old would shoot it out with three police officers,” the mayor said.
He added: “(And) even if Kian were indeed a drug pusher, he shouldn’t have been killed unless the cops were only defending themselves. The public perception is that the cops killed Kian (even) when he was obviously helpless.”
David said the police should produce stronger evidence that Delos Santos was a drug pusher.
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