Thursday morning brought yet more grim news: A boy reported missing in Baguio City was found dead and floating in a creek. Vaughn Dicang, a Grade 12 student, had been gone since Sept. 1. The police chief of Baguio, Senior Supt. Ramil Saculles, provided no other details of the boy’s death pending the release of autopsy results, but he sounded one telling note: He urged the public not to rush to judgment that the police were behind the killing.
That the police are now acutely aware that the public has come to view them with suspicion, even fear, in cases involving the disappearance and death of ordinary citizens—worse, children—is entirely their own making. Vaughn’s story, after all, came on the heels of successive stories of alleged police violence against minors.
First there was the killing—execution-style, according to forensics experts—of Kian delos Santos, 17, who witnesses said was dragged by cops to an alley during a drug raid, forced to hold a gun to simulate resistance (“nanlaban”), and then shot in the back and head while he was prone on the ground.
Carl Arnaiz, 19, appeared to have suffered the same fate. On Aug. 10, he had gone out with a younger friend, Reynaldo de Guzman, to buy snacks in their community in Cainta, Rizal. They never made it back home. Ten days later, Arnaiz’s distraught family would find his corpse in a funeral home in Caloocan—bearing wounds from five bullets pumped into him apparently while he was lying on the ground, according to the Public Attorney’s Office.
The police would offer a preposterous tale: that the scrawny Arnaiz had attempted to rob a taxi driver with a gun, and then engaged responding cops in a shootout. The spot report on the incident is riddled with inconsistencies, beginning with the driver’s address, which has been found to be nonexistent. The driver himself is nowhere to be found.
Arnaiz’s friend, “Kulot,” as 14-year-old De Guzman was fondly called by his neighbors and friends in Cainta, would be found nearly a month later, in a river in Nueva Ecija, in even more horrific circumstances: face bound with packaging tape, young body punctured with 30 stab wounds. Kulot was thrown into the river less than 24 hours after he was killed, per forensic findings. Why was he killed, too? The logical explanation is a blood-curdling one: He had witnessed a crime being committed against his friend Arnaiz, and so had to be silenced as well. And who were the last people reportedly in contact with Arnaiz? The Caloocan police.
The chilling story of how Delos Santos was murdered elicited public outrage, jolting the Duterte administration to reach out to the slain boy’s parents. But that story isn’t new. Last March, 19-year-old Raymart Siapo of Navotas was abducted by armed men in ski masks after a neighbor accused him of being a marijuana peddler. Witnesses said the teenager was forced to ride with the men, then was shoved off the motorcycle and told to run. But the boy couldn’t, as he had clubfeet.
“When my son refused, they told him to sit down instead. Then they shot him. Just like that,” recounted Raymart’s mother, Luzviminda Siapo, who had to rush home from her work as a domestic helper in Kuwait to bury her son. Delos Santos’ mother, incidentally, was also an OFW in Saudi Arabia. And so was Arnaiz’s mother, in Dubai.
The killing of these young people is prompting a “major rethinking” of the war on drugs, says Malacañang. Sen. Grace Poe is also making some noise about a Senate inquiry into the “gruesome deaths” of the three teenagers. In truth, Delos Santos was already the 54th minor killed in the war on drugs since July 2016, according to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center. Too little, too late?
And too much. These killings must stop—or, as in Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, a generation of young Filipinos may be lost to this pitiless bloodbath.
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