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Body of slain teenager exhumed five years after death in Philippines’ ‘war’ on drugs

“After five years, let us see if we can still discover more truth,” said Randy Delos Santos, the victim’s uncle

The body of Kian Delos Santos, the 17-year-old boy who was shot by the police in the government’s “war” on drugs five years ago was exhumed on Monday, August 15, for autopsy.

“After five years, let us see if we can still discover more truth,” said Randy Delos Santos, the victim’s uncle.

In 2018, A Philippine court found three policemen guilty of the murder of Delos Santos during an anti-narcotics operation.



Policemen Arnel Oares, Jeremias Pereda, and Jerwin Cruz were sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in what was then the first conviction of police for extrajudicial killing in the government’s anti-drugs campaign.

The killing of Delos Santos in Caloocan, north of the capital Manila, in August 2017 became controversial after official police reports differed from the accounts of witnesses and footage from closed-circuit cameras.

The death of the Grade 11 student at the hands of police sparked national and international condemnation of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s “total war” on illegal drugs.

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.”

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The case stirred up controversy after police claimed that the teenager tried to fight it out with them with a .45 caliber pistol. Witness testimonies, however, disproved the claims. An independent autopsy also showed the boy was shot in the head.

Catholic priest Flavie Villanueva said Delos Santos “became a symbol of systematic killing involving youths.”

The 2018 court decision found the three policemen guilty of the crime of murder, but acquitted them of planting evidence on Delos Santos.

All three 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.”

The accused were also directed to pay Delos Santos’ family US$2,000 as civil indemnity, US$2,000 for moral damages, US$1,000 for actual damages and US$2,000 for exemplary damages.

Delos Santos’ uncle, Randy, however, said the family wants to learn more about the boy’s death and hold others accountable.

Official records show police killed at least 6,252 people during the crackdown against illegal drugs in 2016.

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