Sanctuary for Kian killing witness
This column was written over the last weekend, so events might have changed and “everybody” could have since moved on by the time you read it.
Whatever. The incident still deserves retelling.
Accompanied by officers of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and representatives of the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption and the Public Attorney’s Office, the father of one of the children who witnessed the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, met with Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David to demand that the prelate turn over his son (and other children) to him.
The meeting took place last Saturday afternoon at the San Roque Cathedral, after the father, who was in jail on drug-related charges, was bailed out supposedly by the PAO. The Caloocan bishop took custody of the witness, and his siblings who chose to join him, after the Senate hearing on the death of Kian. Though the relatives of the witness gave their written consent to Bishop David’s custody over the boy, his parents — the mother working as an overseas Filipino worker in Oman and the father behind bars — were unheard from.
But soon after his release, the father issued a statement demanding custody of his children, says a report from the news website Interaksyon. In a midnight press conference, Bishop David said he “recognized the man’s authority as a parent,” and that he was willing to release the witness and his siblings. “All I asked [of him],” said the bishop, “was that he take care of them.” Around 7 p.m., the children were brought to the cathedral by the nuns tending to them. The same report says: “The children hugged their father, then the family huddled privately.” Bishop David said he believed they also contacted the mother in Oman. After this family meeting, the father and children said they no longer wanted to go with the CIDG; Bishop David noted that “they wanted the Church to retain protective custody.”
“There was a bit of tension,” Bishop David said of the moments after the father conveyed his decision to the police. The CIDG initially did not want to let the father go, while the children “seemed to be wary of the CIDG.”
“Finally, the father declared that he preferred to seek sanctuary from the Church,” said the bishop, who then asked the father to issue a statement indicating that this was his own wish. This the father did, and with that “everything was settled.” Observed the bishop: “The CIDG and VACC were decent about it,” while the father thanked the agencies and the VACC “for respecting his decision.”
Bishop David, who has launched a diocese-wide program not just to monitor extrajudicial killings but also to address the roots of the drug problem (Caloocan is a hotspot for EJKs), observed that “the kids were able to persuade their father.” He said he had urged the father to join the diocese’s rehabilitation program, noting that “addicts are not criminals [but] sick people,” and that the drug problem “must be addressed as a health issue.”
There are still glaring questions about this case. One is: Who posted bail for the father? The CIDG, the PAO and even the VACC all deny they put up the money to get the father released from jail. And since the father, whose identity was kept under wraps for security reasons (for his and his child’s sake) is not apparently a prominent or influential figure, how did he merit a security detail from the police and an anticrime NGO known for its links with President Duterte?
Another nagging question: What would have happened to the father and his children, especially the witness, if Bishop David had not negotiated to allow them to remain with the local church?
I’m also quite intrigued by the participation of the PAO, which is supposed to defend the rights of penurious litigants, and of the VACC, which was founded to protect the rights of crime victims, in not just the Kian case but also in other cases of young EJK victims. Why do they appear to be taking the side of law enforcers, instead of protecting the rights of the poor and the young who fall victim to the war on drugs? What’s going on?
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