Sen. Franklin Drilon (File photo by Grig C. Montegrande / Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Disagreeing with Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Sunday that the Office of the Ombudsman, not the Department of Justice (DOJ), should investigate the police killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.
Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that is looking into the killing of Delos Santos by Caloocan police in a drug raid on Aug. 16, said on Saturday that the DOJ should be allowed to investigate the case despite the objections of his colleagues.
Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros earlier urged Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to stay away from the investigation after Aguirre called the killing of the teenager an “isolated case.”
Lacson said he understood the point of his colleagues, but stressed that it would be more reasonable to allow the DOJ to proceed with its own investigation.
“If Secretary Aguirre inhibits himself, the case may end up landing in his office when someone files a petition for review,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
He added, however, that he hoped Delos Santos’ case would not end up like that of slain Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte, which DOJ prosecutors downgraded from murder to homicide.
Both the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate had found that police deliberately killed Espinosa during a warrant raid on his cell in a Leyte jail where he was held on drug charges on Nov. 5 last year.
President Duterte has promised protection for police who kill suspects in his take-no-prisoners war on drugs.
Aguirre is a defender of the campaign, which has seen thousands of suspects killed by police in drug raids and thousands of others slain in attacks by suspected vigilantes.
Give way to Ombudsman
Speaking in a radio interview on Sunday, Drilon said the DOJ should give way to the Ombudsman, which has the power to conduct a preliminary investigation like the department, determine probable cause and file charges.
“It is because of past incidents you cannot help but doubt the impartiality of the DOJ and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) is part of the DOJ,” Drilon said.
He cited the Espinosa case, in which the downgrading of the charges by the DOJ enabled the policemen involved to go free on bail.
Police claimed Delos Santos was a drug courier and said they shot him because he fired at them with a .45 caliber pistol.
Police showed pictures of the dead boy with a pistol in his left hand, but the Delos Santos family said the Grade 12 student was right-handed.
Results of an autopsy conducted by a PAO medical examiner also showed that the boy was negative for powder burns.
But the results of an examination by the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory differed from the PAO’s findings.
While the PAO examination found three gunshot wounds on the boy’s body, the police autopsy found only two.
The police findings, however, agreed with the PAO’s that the teenager was on his knees when he was shot.
The parents of Delos Santos have filed in the DOJ murder charges against four policemen over the killing of the boy, who was buried on Saturday amid calls for justice from thousands of people who also urged an end to extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’ war on drugs.
On Sunday, Malacañang said the public should allow the law to take its course now that charges had been brought against the policemen who killed Delos Santos.
“Kian delos Santos has been laid to rest. A criminal complaint against the Caloocan policemen involved in the incident has already been filed,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“Investigation is now in the process. Let us allow the law to take its due course,” he said.
Drilon said there was nothing wrong if the investigation was entrusted to an independent agency.
He said he was particularly concerned about the differing findings of the PAO and the police medical examiners.
“If you put doubt on the evidence because you have different autopsy reports, that might lead an acquittal. That is why we should be careful,” he said.
Wrangle over witnesses
Drilon also said he was puzzled about the DOJ and the PAO’s bids to get three witnesses, two of whom are minors, out of the protection of Hontiveros.
But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said there was no need for a wrangle over the witnesses.
“We all have the same goal, which is to find out the truth and achieve justice in Kian’s death,” Pimentel said.
Sen. JV Ejercito said politics should not be injected into the case of the teenager.
“The issue on Kian should go beyond politics. The issue is humanity. The best way to give justice to Kian is to make sure this horrific crime does not happen again to any minor,” Ejercito said in a statement.
“I am hoping that Kian’s death will not be used by certain politicians or groups to advance their own political interests,” he added.
- Published in Latest News
- Written by Christine O. Avendaño, Jhoanna Ballaran, Marlon Ramos, Philip C. Tubeza - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer
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