By Abby Zara
The University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD) students raged against the recent surge of deaths caused by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) “One time, big time” anti-illegal drugs operation.
The students staged a candle-lighting protest at the Palma Hall steps on Aug. 19 in response to the recent killings of 32 alleged drug users across Bulacan and 20 across Metro Manila.
The police operation was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs, which was set to be Duterte’s legacy— he vowed to end the country’s drug problem in three to six months upon winning the presidential position.
At least 3,451 alleged drug personalities have been killed in police operations after a year of the President’s term, according to PNP statistics, and a total of more than 7,600 in January, including those killed by unknown vigilantes. However, Duterte recently admitted that his previous deadline was not enough to curb the country’s drug problem.
The protesters highlighted the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student, which recently sparked a renewed outrage against the President’s War on Drugs.
Delos Santos was shot by police when he allegedly drew a gun and fled after they tried to apprehend him on Wednesday in Barangay 160, Caloocan City.
Meanwhile, CCTV footage showed Delos Santos being carried away by the police, contrary to reports that the boy fought back.
Eyewitnesses also debunked the PNP’s claims and said that the police handed Delos Santos a gun, ordered him to fire it, and run.
To serve and protect?
“Nakakapanlumong malaman na ang isang musmos na tulad niya ay papatayin na lamang na basta-basta. Pinatay ang kanyang pangarap, pinatay ang kanyang kinabukasan, sinira ang kanyang pamilya,” said Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) College of Mass Communication Chairperson Nickolo Domingo
Furthermore, Domingo questioned where the PNP’s loyalty lies.
“Itong mga institusyon tulad ng PNP, ang kanilang slogan ay Serve and Protect. Pero sino nga ba ang kanilang pinagsisilbihan? Sino nga ba ang kanilang pinoprotektahan?” Domingo added.
Other protests were simultaneously held by students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Sta. Mesa, and University of Santo Tomas, led by progressive youth group Anakbayan.
“If this campaign of mass murder continues, then we are not shy to predict that Duterte will easily become the most hated Philippine president regardless of his supposed popularity. More and more are realizing how the anti-drug war has largely killed the poor even as big drug lords and protectors in the bureaucracy, police and military are untouched,” said Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of Anakbayan National, in a Facebook post.
Anakbayan UPD Chairperson Jann Merlin noted that Oplan Tokhang does not only do nothing to solve poverty — it targets the poor alone and contributes heavily to worsen their suffering.
“Diba sabi ni Duterte kamakailan lang na hindi naman talaga mapupuksa yung kahirapan sa pagpatay sa mga mahihirap, pero bakit pa rin niya ipinagpapatuloy yung Oplan Tokhang? Bakit pa rin niya ipinagpapatuloy yung pagpatay sa mga inosenteng sibilyan imbis na ibigay sa kanila yung hanapbuhay?” said Merlin.
Not an isolated case
Although Malacañang called Delos Santos’ death an “isolated” case, data from Children’s Rights and Development Center show that he is just one of at least 31 others aged 18 and under killed in police operations and vigilante killings since Duterte’s term started.
Youngest in the list is four year-old Althea Barbon, who died from gunshot wounds after a buy-bust operation intended to capture her father Aldrick Barbon in Guhuilngan City, Negros Oriental.
Five-year-olds Danica May Garcia and Francis Mañosca, on the other hand, were both victims of vigilante killings.
Also among the list are seven-year-old San Niño Batucan, 12-year-old Kristine Joy Sailog, 16-year-old Michael Diaz, 17-year-olds Erica Fernandez and Hideyoshi Kawata, 18-year-old Joshua Cumilang, and two unidentified minors in Ampatuan, Mindanao, according to an article by Rappler.
Renz Pasigpasigan from the League of Filipino Students said that although the killings are rampant because of the War on Drugs, it is not the only form of attack by the state to look out for.
The Duterte Administration launched its counter-insurgency program “Oplan Kapayapaan” in January, replacing former President Benigno Aquino’s “Oplan Bayanihan.”
Pasigpasigan claimed that while Oplan Kapayapaan is supposedly a way to suppress terrorists, the administration is also using it to kill ordinary citizens that speak out against state violence.
“Ito ay isang malinaw na instrumento ng pamahalaan para supilin ang mga mamamayang lumalaban, ang mga magsasaka, ang mga katutubo doon sa kanayunan,” Pasigpasigan said.
One of the calls forwarded by the protesters was the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao, which caused an increase of human rights abuses in the area, according to human rights group Karapatan.
Pasigpasigan stressed the need for students to continuously stand up against injustices during these times.
“Kung sila [estado] ay may mahabang kasaysayan ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao, kailangan ang mga iskolar ng bayan ay may mahabang kasaysayan ng pakikibaka at ipagpapatuloy natin ito hanggang sa kasalukuyan,” Pasigpasigan added.
Some UPD students visited Delos Santos’ wake today before proceeding to the People Power Monument for the “Himagsikan Justice For Kian” rally.
Two more protests are set to be staged in UPD this week: one on Aug. 22 as a response to state violence, and a unity march on Aug. 23 against state fascism, and for just and lasting peace. The protests will be held at the Malcolm Hall steps and Palma Hall step respectively.