MANILA – Saying “there is no higher value for a society than to protect its children and youth,” the UNICEF has expressed deep concern over the impact of the war on drugs on children’s rights, as disturbingly reflected in the killing by police of 17-year-old student Kian Lloyd delos Santos.
“A fair and transparent investigation into Kian’s death should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. This investigation must be undertaken in a manner that seeks to guarantee the best interests of children and promote respect for their rights. Those who are responsible for killings and deliberate violence against children must be held accountable,” said the statement, issued on behalf of the UN agency by the UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.
“UNICEF Philippines is deeply concerned about the impact of the war on drugs on Filipino children,” Sylwander said.
“The death of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos during the drug raid in Caloocan City and the circumstances of his untimely death in relation to the State’s war on drugs are deeply disturbing,” added UNICEF.
UNICEF offered its condolences to Kian’s family, adding it shared as well “the grief of all the families of children who have been killed, as well as of children who have lost parents, caregivers and relatives, during anti-drug operations.”
The UNICEF asserted that regardless of the motivations underlying actions by state agents, such actions that “increase the risks children face or violate their rights are not in accordance with the responsibilities of signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
As a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines, UNICEF noted, “has a legal and moral obligation to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of every child. Every child’s right to life, to develop to her or his full potential, to be heard, and to be protected from all forms of violence are universal and inalienable. There are no exceptions. These rights apply without qualification.”
UNICEF Philippines said it joined “the many organizations and individuals coming together to demand action to prevent any further loss of children’s lives. There is no higher value for a society than to protect its own children and youth.”
Kian’s death – initially justified as self-defense by Caloocan police conducting a “one-time, big-time” operation against drug personalities – has touched off a firestorm in and out of government, with President Rodrigo Duterte himself conceding that the policemen may face charges as the evidence does not seem to be in their favor.
The police earlier claimed the minor had a gun and fought them, but CCTV footage and witness accounts indicated he was being dragged by police to a dark place where he was apparently executed. A subsequent autopsy conducted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) also indicated “intentional killing,” with bullet wounds in the young man’s head.
The barangay where Kian’s family lives had said no member of his family was on any drug list, but the police belatedly trotted out two witnesses claiming they were dealing with Kian, a supposed drug runner for his father and uncle.
His mother, an OFW based in Saudi Arabia, rushed home on news of his death and is demanding justice.