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Group finds 74 minors in drug war body count

Youths have become targets, not ‘collateral damage,’ watchdog notes
/ 06:38 AM April 06, 2018

Some of the schoolmates of Kian delos Santos attend his wake days after the Caloocan City teenager was killed by the police in a controversial antidrug operation in August 2017. —RICHARD A. REYES

At least 74 minors have been killed in police operations and vigilante-style attacks over the last 17 months, from July 2016 to December 2017, according to an advocacy group that conducts a body count of young victims in the Duterte administration’s controversial war on drugs.

Despite their age, they were lined up among the targets, not just “collateral damage,” according to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC).

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“With the war on drugs, children died together with due process,” CLRDC Executive Director Rowena Legaspi said.

In a forum in Quezon City on Thursday, CLRDC said it had documented at least 56 boys and 18 girls killed since Mr. Duterte launched the bloody campaign, which critics have blamed for the rise of questionable police operations and extrajudicial killings targeting suspected drug offenders, even those in their teens.

Kids on watch list

In an interview, Legaspi said her group’s documentation and interviews with the victim’s families and witnesses revealed that some children were included in the so-called drug watch list often mentioned by the police and barangay officials when making an official report of the deaths.

“We’ve also been monitoring detention centers for children, particularly those with minors who were accused of drug use,” Legaspi said. “We encountered cases of children who were killed just after they leave the juvenile detention center.”

“The President had said that [the campaign against drugs] is for the next generation,” she said. “But what are they doing to the present generation who bear witness to this campaign?”

According to the government’s #RealNumbersPH, 4,075 “drug personalities” had died in antidrug operations from July 1, 2016 to March 20, 2018.

Of the 2,467 drug killings categorized as homicide cases, 1,752 remain under investigation while 715 cases have been declared solved.

During the same period, authorities arrested 123,648 people in 91,704 antidrug operations, and seized a total of 2,621 kilos of “shabu” (crystal meth) with a street value of P13.46 billion.

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Human rights groups, however, said the death toll had climbed to 12,000 since the crackdown began.

Among the most controversial killings were those involving children, whom President Duterte earlier described as “collateral damage” in the war on drugs.

Dagupan, Pasig slays

Danica May Garcia, 5, died in what the police described as drug-related shooting incident in Dagupan City in August 2016. High school student Emmanuel Lorica, 17, was shot dead by gunmen who entered at an evacuation center for fire victims in Rosario, Pasig City, in December that year.

In August last year, Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, was killed by members of the Caloocan City police. The following month, the body of 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman was fished out of a creek in Nueva Ecija province, his head wrapped in plastic and with 30 stab wounds.

Legaspi said assistance given to the families of slain children had only come in the form of burial aid from the local government.

She noted the lack of other interventions that would help them cope psychologically with their personal loss and the violence in their community, particularly for children who witnessed the killing of their parents, siblings or friends. —WITH INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: duterte, legal rights, minors, war on drugs
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