Three Philippine police officers were found guilty of murdering a teenager during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
Judge Roldolfo Azucena ruled that the murder of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos was “not a function of law enforcement” and sentenced each officer to 40 years.
They would not be eligible for parole, the court said.
On taking office in 2016, Duterte promised a campaign to kill every drug user and dealer to tackle widespread use of narcotics.
It was the first guilty verdict in an extrajudicial killing in the 29-month, anti-drug campaign, according to rights campaigners.
Duterte’s administration has repeatedly said there was no declared policy to kill drug addicts and dealers.
Extrajudicial killings, by the police and vigilantes, have left at least 12,000 dead with Human Rights Watch calling Duterte’s presidency a “human rights calamity.”
Santos was shot to death in a Manila alley in August last year.
The police, as with numerous other killings, claimed the supposed drug runner drew a gun and fired, and that they returned fire in self-defence. A police crime-scene photograph showed a firearm and packets of meth next to Santos’ corpse, his uncle Randy Delos Santos told the media last year.
But neighbourhood security video showed the three officers dragging the teenager into the alley, minutes before he was found dead.
Santos said it was the video that prevented his nephew becoming another drugs war statistic.
Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag) said: “The conviction of the three police officers for murdering Kian delos Santos is a victory for justice but it is not enough. The killings must stop.”
Flag has challenged the legality of Duterte’s war on drugs before the Supreme Court in Manila.
“A shoot-first, think-later attitude can never be countenanced in a civilised society,” the judge said.
Two months after the murder, Duterte ordered the police to stop anti-drugs operations as his sparked public outrage. The 73-year-old populist reinstated the role of police in the drugs war in December last, saying the drug crisis had worsened.
The murder sparked a national outcry and “awakened people”, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Caloocan near Manila told NPR last year.
“When I learned about the death of this boy, I asked the parish priest to accompany me to the house. And it’s a house in the slums, and they asked me to celebrate mass,” the bishop said. “There was no place in the house at all, so we had to celebrate mass in the street. And the streets were full of people.”
How many other drugs war killings were set up? Picture credit: YouTube