‘Drug ring killed pedicab driver’
Slain pedicab driver Michael Siaron, who became a global poster boy against the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, was actually killed by a drug syndicate and not by the police, Malacañang said on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Siaron, whom police believed to be a drug pusher, was gunned down in Pasay City last year by motorcycle-riding men who left a cardboard sign with the words “Pusher ako, wag tularan [I’m a pusher, do not imitate]” near his body.
The Inquirer’s front-page photo on July 24, 2016, showed Siaron’s partner, Jennilyn Olayres, cradling his body at the crime scene. The Pieta-like image drew widespread attention.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said police evidence indicated that Siaron was killed by a drug ring member.
“Authorities have put closure on the death of Michael Siaron, whose photo was compared to the Pieta image, after ballistic examination from a recovered firearm revealed that he was killed by a member of a syndicate also involved in the illegal drug trade,” Abella said.
Killer also killed
He issued the statement after the Pasay City police identified Siaron’s alleged killer as Nesty Santiago, from whom lawmen supposedly recovered a firearm that was later subjected to a ballistic test.
Santiago himself was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen on Dec. 29, 2016, five months after Siaron’s killing.
The police said that ballistic tests on Santiago’s gun matched the results of five other cases, all involving drugs. He was apparently a member of a syndicate involved in robberies, car thefts, hired killings and illegal drugs, the police added.
Abella said that the findings on Siaron’s death supported the administration’s claim that drug syndicates were behind many of the killings in the country.
Eliminating each other
“The Siaron case verifies what government has said from the start of the campaign… Many of these killings were perpetrated by those involved in drug operations as well—drug traffickers and pushers eliminating each other,” he said.
“The relentless attribution of such killings to police operations was both premature and unfair to law-abiding enforcement officers who risk life and limb to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in our society,” he added.
Abella said the government would continue to pursue cases of deaths under investigation to identify the culprits and bring them to justice.
The day after Siaron’s death, Mr. Duterte said in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25 that the media was trying to portray Siaron as Jesus Christ in Michelangelo’s Pieta sculpture.
“That’s how they are. We’re being melodramatic here,” he had said in Filipino.
But while recent opinion polls suggest 8 in 10 Filipinos support the drug war, the President’s trust and satisfaction ratings sustained their biggest drops since he assumed office.
Mr. Duterte subsequently pulled the Philippine National Police out of the drug war for the second time and designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as lead agency.
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