The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday recommended murder charges against four police officers who killed a 17-year-old boy and allegedly planted evidence on his corpse, in a case that has galvanized opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
Police claimed to have shot Kian Loyd Delos Santos in self defense after he engaged them in a gunfight. But multiple witness testimonies backed by CCTV footage showed that he was beaten, dragged into an alley and shot in the head. In an apparent bid to justify his killing, police later portrayed Santos as a drug runner.
"From the collective acts of herein police officers prior, during, and after the incident, it is very evident that they have one single purpose, that is to kill [the] victim," read part of the NBI complaint, according to Philippine news site Rappler.
Journalists and human rights groups have previously exposed numerous cases of Philippine police systematically murdering drug suspects, but the brazen nature of Delos Santos' killing has sparked public outcry. Last week, more than 1,000 people attended his funeral procession, demanding justice and a halt to the police killings.
Soon after CCTV footage of Santos was made public, Duterte declared the offending officers would go to jail if found guilty. "There will be no luto-luto," he said, using a Filipino term for cheating justice.
Delos Santos was among at least 91 people shot dead during one of the bloodiest weeks of the Philippine drug war, which some human rights groups say has claimed upwards of 10,000 lives. Philippine law enforcement agencies, however, have in recent months downgraded the official death toll. In January, police figures said 7,000 people had died, the official toll now stands at about 3,500.
Last week, Duterte — who had campaigned on a promise to “solve drugs, criminality, and corruption in three to six months of taking office” admitted he was fighting an unwinnable war. The promise to eradicate methamphetamine use “won’t be fulfilled," he told soldiers in Marawi. "This [drug use] really will not end.”
Rather than expressing remorse for the drug war's victims, however, he ended the speech by reiterating that it would be “unremitting as it will be unrelenting."