THE medico-legal officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) differed on the distance and number of gunshot wounds, but they agreed that 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos was kneeling with his face down on the ground when police officers shot and killed him.
Asked whether it is usual police practice to shoot somebody who is kneeling or in a prone position, PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa told a Senate panel on Thursday, August 24, that he could not justify such killing.
“Hindi ko ma-justify, your honor, ‘yung barilin yung tao na nakaluhod (I can’t justify killing somebody who is kneeling),” Dela Rosa said.
“Kung nakaluhod ‘yan si Kian at nakatalikod tapos babarilin mo, eh kriminal ka, murderer ka, hindi ka law enforcer (If Kian was kneeling with his back to you and you shoot him, then you’re a criminal. You’re a murderer. You’re not a law enforcer),” he added.
The Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs opened Thursday its own investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killing of Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student who was killed by police during a “one-time big-time” operation on August 16 in Barangay 160, Caloocan City.
His killing has sparked public outrage after a surveillance camera video showed he was dragged by the police, belying the police claim that the boy had fired at them. Witnesses said the teener, who pleaded for the police to stop, was forced to hold a gun and told to run.
The three policemen who conducted the operation that resulted in Delos Santos’ death -- Police Officer (PO) 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz -- appeared before the Senate committee on Thursday, but declined to answer any questions without their lawyer.
They insisted, however, that it was not Delos Santos in the video but an asset whose identity they wanted to conceal.
Their immediate superior, Chief Inspector Amor Cerillo, revealed that a ballistic examination showed that the firearm issued to Oares matched the slugs found on the teener’s body.
Oares declined the services of a staff of the Senate Legal Counsel and refused to answer any questions. All four policemen have been placed under restrictive custody.
Senior Superintendent Chito Bersaluna, police station commander of Caloocan City who has been placed on administrative relief, reiterated that they have confirmed that Delos Santos was involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Pressed on how confirmation was made, Bersaluna said they based their conclusion on “social media” posts and the allegations of a drug suspect known as alias Nono who was arrested the day after Delos Santos was killed.
Bersaluna said alias Nono had identified Delos Santos through his photo and alleged that he transacted with the teener.
Cerillo, however, admitted they did not have evidence that would prove that Delos Santos was directly involved in illegal drugs. A mobile phone that police confiscated contained messages on illegal drugs transactions, but Cerillo said none pertained to Delos Santos.
Both the medico-legal officers of PNP and PAO said the teener was killed while he was kneeling or was in a prone position.
But Chief Inspector Jocelyn Cruz, who conducted the autopsy after Delos Santos had been embalmed, said she found two gunshot wounds -- one in the left ear and another behind the left ear.
She said Delos Santos was kneeling, with his back to his attackers and face down on the ground, and shot from a distance of about two feet.
Dr. Erwin Erfe of PAO, who conducted a forensic analysis on Delos Santos’ remains on August 21, said there may have been one or two gunmen.
He said the teener sustained three entry wounds -- one in the left ear, another at the back of the left ear, and the third in the middle back area. There were also two exit wounds on the boy’s right face.
Erfe said the wounds on the middle back and behind the left ear “both entered in an angled approach with upward trajectory,” indicating that these were shot by a single gunman.
He described the wound inside the left ear, on the other hand, as “near contact” with a trajectory of 85 percent, or almost perpendicular.
“The gunman would have to be on the left side of Kian,” he added.
He later demonstrated before the Senate panel that the boy must have been in a prone position when shot. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)