Mourners walk with the hearse of Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old student who was shot during anti-drug operations, during a funeral march in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: The outrage of grieving relatives, angry friends, rights groups, priests and nuns intensified as they called for justice during the burial of a 17-year-old student who was killed by policemen in an anti-drug campaign in Metro Manila’s Caloocan City on August 16,

Mourners accompanied the flower-decked funeral car that carried the casket of Kian Lloyd delos Santos, 17, when it stopped and lingered in front of Caloocan City’s police station where suspected killers, police officers Jerwin Cruz, Arnel Oares, and Jeremias Pereda were assigned earlier before their relief from office because of the incident.

The death of Kian Loyd delos Santos has drawn widespread attention to allegations that police have been systematically executing suspected users and dealers — a charge the authorities deny.

Delos Santos’ father, Saldy, spoke briefly during a mass to defend his son’s innocence and express anger at the police.

“Don’t they have a heart? I’m not sure they do. There’s a lot of churches, they should go there,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Delos Santos was dragged by plain-clothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in northern Manila, before he was shot in the head and left next to a pigsty, according to witnesses whose accounts appeared to be backed up by CCTV footage.

Police say they acted in self defence after Delos Santos opened fire on them.

The T-shirts of the mourners — emblazoned with “Justice for Kian” — matched hissing and raised placards that read, “Justice not bullets;” “Stop the killing, start the healing;” “Stop Fascist attacks on people,” “Stop the killings and other human rights violations.”

The tireless mourners did not put down their placards. They chanted “Justice for Kian! Justice for all,” as they entered the Saint Francis of Assisi and Sta. Quiteria Parish for the funeral mass. Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta remained seated with relatives throughout the “tear-filled and politically charged” ceremony, an observer said.

“The relatives are grieving but at peace — because they have filed complaints against the suspected killers and other police personnel of Caloocan City,” attested Acosta.

Activists and mourners raised their clenched fists together as the teenager — he has become a martyr and a rallying point for those who have been campaigning against the bloody and relentless drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte — was laid to rest at the La Loma Cemetery

“Kian is now the name and the face of truth (about drug-war) in the Philippines. I hope there is no whitewash in the case filed against his killers,” said Fr. Robert Reyes, known as the “running priest” — he jogs in expressing his political advocacies.

“I hope the truth in this case does not die the way Kian died. I hope Kian is the last to die in (the country’s) drug-war,” said Reyes.

The teenager’s father Saldy delos Santos said his son’s bicycle, a gift he received from his mother Lorenza, a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, will remained displayed in their house.

“It’s painful that he had left me. We were always together — at the market where we sell goods. We slept together. What happened to my son was ugly. I hope his killers will rot in prison,” said the elder delos Santos.

Recalling how his son asked for a gift from his mother during an internet chat, the father said, ”Kian told his mother, ‘Buy me a bike.’ He did not ask for an electric bike like the ones owned by his classmates. He knew his mother works hard abroad. He also told his mom, ‘That’s the only thing I’ll ask from you. I promise to pass my exam.’”

“He is a good son. He is not a drug addict,” said Lorenza delos Santos who flew to Manila for a tragic homecoming last Thursday night. The OFW’s outcry reverberated to many OFWs worldwide.

At least six Northern Police District officials, including NPD director Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo, were relieved from their post because of the killing of Delos Santos, which has caused widespread public outrage and renewed calls for an end to Duterte’s drug-war method.

The policemen claimed self-defence: they were allegedly fired at by the teenager who tried to escape arrest. They recovered from him a cal-45 pistol and two sachets of suspected shabu with a street value of about P20,000 (Dh1,437). These items were planted, relatives claimed.

Witnesses and a closed circuit television (CCTV) footage showed he was shot after he pleaded for his life. An autopsy conducted by the PAO forensic consultant Dr Erwin Erfe said Delos Santos was shot at the left part of his back and at his left ear (the bullets exited at the right side of his head); and at the left ear that went deep in a straight angle. He was killed lying face down, his assailants standing up near his feet. Witnesses were enrolled at the witness protection programme of the justice department.