CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Philippine policemen convicted of killing teen

MANILA (UCAN): A court in Kalookan, Metro Manila, the Philippines, found three policemen guilty of the murder of 17-year-old student, Kian Delos Santos, during an anti-narcotics operation in August 2017. However, they were acquitted of planting evidence.
 
Arnel Oares, Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz were sentenced to at least 30 years in prison by the court on November 29 in the first conviction of police for extrajudicial killing in the 29-month anti-drugs campaign, according to human rights advocates. 
 
Controversy arose when it was found that official police reports—which claimed that the teenager tried to fight it out with them with a .45 caliber pistol—differed from eyewitness accounts and footage from closed-circuit cameras. An autopsy showed the boy was down on the ground when was shot twice in the head from point blank range.
 
The tragedy sparked national and international condemnation of the war on drugs of Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. 
 
Critics of the president said the death of Delos Santos “underscored the human rights atrocities committed in the name of the bloody war on drugs.”
 
Father Flavie Villanueva said Delos Santos “became a symbol of systematic killing involving youths.”
 
Data from the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Centre revealed that at least 74 children have been killed in the war on narcotics.
 
According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, about 5,000 people were killed between 1 July 2016 and October 31 this year.
 
National police spokesperson, Benigno Durana Jr., confirmed that the police have some 26,000 to 30,000 “deaths under investigation” or DUIs. But he said that not all were related to anti-narcotics operations.
 
“It’s a lie by some quarters insisting the 30,000 DUIs are related to police operations,” he insisted, adding that the police were “very transparent and truthful, that we have 4,999 (suspects) who died in legitimate police operations.”
 
In a statement, the presidential palace described the guilty verdict against the policemen as “a triumph of justice.”
 
Duterte spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said, “It shows that this country has a robust judicial system.” 
 
Opposition senator Grace Poe, who ran against Duterte during the 2016 presidential race, said in a statement, “This is a compelling verdict because it tells us that justice is on hand, not just for the young Kian delos Santos but for the other dubious deaths linked to the drug war.” 
 
In 2017, the legislator spearheaded an investigation into the killings of teenagers linked to drug-related crimes, including the murder of Delos Santos.
 
The non-government Child Rights Network, the largest alliance of organisations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, also welcomed the guilty verdict.
 
It said in a statement that the “landmark decision” is an “essential step in the right direction that sends a clear message that ... justice can still be attained in the Philippines.”
 
The group said, “The verdict ... is a staunch reminder to all, especially state forces, that what a nation should uphold is the rule of law—and not the monolithic rule of law enforcers.” 
 
However, the group called it a “partial victory” because the policemen were not found guilty of charges of planting firearms and drugs despite evidence supporting the charges.
 
All three of the convicted policemen were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility of parole. The Philippine Supreme Court has defined reclusion perpetua as “imprisonment for at least 30 years after which the convict becomes eligible for pardon.”
 
They were also directed to pay the Delos Santos’ family US$2,000 ($15,655) in civil indemnity, a further US$2,000 ($15,655) in moral damages, US$1,000 ($7,827) in actual damages and US$2,000 ($15,655)  in exemplary damages.

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