Kian Loyd de los Santos, the 17-year-old killed by anti-narcotics agents as he knelt face down in a dark and dirty alleyway, sparking public outrage over President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, was buried at 2pm on Saturday (Aug 25).
Over 5,000 mourners, many wearing white shirts with the words “Justice for Kian”, joined the funeral march from De los Santos’ home in Caloocan city, north of the capital Manila.
Thousands more lined the roads that led to a cemetery about 10km away. They waited along sidewalks, and on roofs, staircases, bridgeways and overpasses to catch a glimpse of De los Santos’ flower-draped coffin on a flatbed truck flanked with tarpaulins bearing the words “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the killings”.
Many of the mourners live in rundown districts where Mr Duterte has always enjoyed popular support. But this time, they joined the chorus demanding justice for De los Santos, a Grade 12 student who was heard crying, “Stop, please! I have a test tomorrow”, as he was being manhandled by three policemen, and just moments before he was shot three times – once in the back and twice in the head.
A middle-aged woman held a placard with the words, “Kian, you are an eye-opener”. Others hung cardboards in front of their houses with the pervading calls of the moment: “Justice for Kian” and “Stop the killings”.
Those who joined in the march carried streamers that, among many messages, reminded everyone: “Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill”.
Others directed their anger at the police force, labelling lawmen as “killers” and “a scourge”.
The cortege stopped at the police precinct where the policemen who killed De los Santos were assigned. A prayer service that doubled as a protest was held there. Only one policeman stepped out to have a look.
De los Santos’ death has drawn huge public attention to allegations by activists that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers, a charge the authorities deny.
The three policemen who killed him during a drug raid early in the evening on Aug 16 said De los Santos shot at them, so they fired back.
But a witness said he saw the three men grab De los Santos outside a shop near his home. They then began slapping and punching the boy until he cried. They put him in a headlock and dragged him away.
A security camera footage showed two of them marching someone through a basketball court. A third man followed. Witnesses identified the one being dragged as De los Santos.
The boy was then taken to a dark, trash-logged alley by a river, near a pigsty. A witness heard burst of gunfire. Moments later, De los Santos was dead.
On Friday, the boy’s parents and public lawyers filed murder complaints against the three policemen involved.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said earlier De los Santos’ death was being “overblown” by the President’s crisis. It was an “isolated case”, he said.
But the Children's Legal Rights and Development Centre , a Manila-based advocacy group, said De los Santos was just one of the 54 minors, aged one to 17, killed since Mr Duterte began a savage crackdown on drugs last year.