Espina: Remembering Kian

YESTERDAY, August 16, 2018, marked a year since 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was dragged pleading for his life into a dark alley in his Caloocan City neighborhood by four policemen who ordered him to take a gun, fire it then run away.

When he refused, they shot him dead anyway.

The few seconds of CCTV image showing the boy sandwiched between his murderers as they rushed past a basketball court will forever be etched in the nation’s memory.

As will his fearful, doubtless tearful, plea: “Tama na po! Tama na po! May test pa ako bukas!”

The murder of Kian was, of course, not the first committed by authorities in carrying out the orgy of death that is Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” a war that, as he himself admitted again in the nth reiteration of his wish to resign that he never gets around to fulfilling, is a failure, so much so that he actually predicted the drug problem, along with corruption, was likely to get worse rather than better by the time he ends his term, whenever that will be.

But the brazenness with which Kian was picked up and executed, practically in full view of his community, and the subsequent attempts by police to cover up the crime, sparked unprecedented outrage among people, including many who previously approved of the bloody campaign.

Aside from the expected #justiceforkian hashtag, #kianismyson and #akosikian also went viral, an indication that, for many, Kian’s murder struck too close to home. The youth, especially those from the same urban poor milieu Kian lived and died in, readily saw themselves and their dangerous straits in him.

Mothers realized that they, too, stood to lose the children they birthed to the arbitrary brutality of a campaign founded on homicidal delusions. And many others wondered how it was that the poor were dying in droves but the alleged drug lords, including those Duterte himself had named, not only continued to breathe the air of freedom but were actually being cleared of the charges against them.

Such was the outrage that, for a rare instance, Duterte lost his bluster and attempted a bungling show of sympathy for Kian’s parents that was, of course, as short-lived as his regular changes of mind.

In no time, it was back to the profanities and threats that pass for governance Duterte style. And it was back, as well, to the killing.

And so yesterday was just another working day in Malacañang Palace.

I doubt anyone in the center of power gave so much as a thought to the Kian’s first death anniversary, not until a reporter brought it up at the press briefing by Duterte mouthpiece Harry Roque.

Asked about the significance of the day, Roque’s lame response was shameless. He did not even bother to pretend to honor Kian, embarking instead on a lame attempt to shine the spotlight on his principal.

“The death anniversary is significant because this incident led to the President’s clarification on his official pronouncement on the drug war,” Roque said. “He will support the police if the killing is legal. He will prosecute the police if the killing is illegal.”

Roque made much of the fact that five policemen implicated in Kian’s murder are behind bars, claiming this was proof that there is justice under Duterte.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Justice for the death of Kian and for the many thousands of lives snuffed out without due process in the war on drugs can be had only when the madman who ordered the killing frenzy and his primary implementers are called to account.

Which is why I do not wish Duterte disappears any time soon. I hope he lives long enough to pay for all his crimes against our people and nation.

I am sure this is much more than just one man’s opinion.


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