Not just another statistic

His death seems to have touched a different nerve.

When 17 year old Kian Delos Santos was shot dead by Caloocan City policemen during an anti-drug war operation, not one among the cops involved could have figured how different this one death would be.

Neighbors of Kian de los Santos. Photo by Ian Tapao.

Who would have? Kian, based on accounts, seems to have been just another young man living in another drug- infested barangay, subjected to just another police sweep that would result in just a few more deaths. The nation has come to expect the same story - policemen arrive, encounter their prey, who fight back and are killed in the process. And indeed such was the story on the night Kian was killed.

Problem is, not only did witnesses come forward to give a different version of the story, there also was footage from a CCTV camera that showed an interesting image of a young man, bent over, being led away by two plainclothes policemen, moments before he was shot dead allegedly because he fired at them while running away.

How a young man of 17, already tightly gripped by two cops, could wiggle away, retrieve a gun from somewhere on his body and fire at his pursuers escapes me. At the very least it means that whoever were the cops who were holding him as seen on the video were stupid enough not only to not frisk him so they could strip him of any weapons, but they were also weak enough to be unable to hold on to a teenager whom they now had to shoot back at to defend themselves.

Oh, and yes, pictures of a slumped Kian clearly showed a gun held in his left hand.

The young man was right handed.

And so, in ways that the controversial deaths of two mayors before him couldn't, Kian's death seems to have galvanized a significant segment of the population into a reaction that this Administration should take note of: Facebook posts saying "Kian is my son" from women, not all of whom are mothers, and even from some menfolk too; statements of outrage and demands for justice across the board, and expressions of concern (if not disgust) from people who start off by admitting that they are -- or remain -- supporters of the President.

Of the thousands who have fallen at the hands of authorities due to the war against the drug menace, not one seems to have been able to move the general public into a significant amount of shock and outrage as this one.

In this case, his mother's wails seem to strike deep. When she demands of the President that justice be done because her son could not be brought back from the dead anyway, even those who used to be unmoved are this time affected.

What makes the Kian Delos Santos case more explosive is that it comes on the heels of a Bureau of Customs scandal that has left another controversial image in the minds of the public- that of photographs showing alleged big time smugglers chummy with the sons of the President. Juxtapose that image with the image of a dead Kian and immediately emotions around the contrast between the well-connected versus the poor instantly rise to the surface.

For sure, Kian had no selfie with anyone from the First Family!

If not addressed correctly, the death of Kian Delos Santos can end up being more than just another statistic.

(This column first appeared in Malaya. Reprinted with the author's permission.)


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