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Human rights commission probing ‘one time, big time’ drug ops, Kian’s death

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday initiated a probe into drug operations conducted in Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Metro Manila that resulted in more than 90 deaths in the past week.

In a statement, the CHR expressed its concern over the "unprecedented surge" in the anti-drug campaign's death toll, which now includes 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.

The CHR said it has the CCTV footage allegedly showing Kian being carried to a place where his body was later found.

The commission also announced that is has been authorized by Kian's family to conduct an autopsy on the slain 11th grader.

According to CHR EJK Task Force Head Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana,  teams have been dispatched to Bulacan, Laguna and Manila to conduct motu proprio investigations into the deaths.

Pimentel-Gana added that the teams were working to extract statements from possible witnesses.

In the statement, CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin "Chito" Gascon also lamented that the dead includes several young people.

"Malungkot po kami na naging kabilang sa rising death toll ang mga kabataan. Marami na ring mga bata, sa iba't ibang konteksto, ang napaslang, nasaktan, at nawalan ng magulang. Malungkot po kami lalo pa't napaslang ng isang pulis ang batang pangarap din maging isang pulis," he said.

Kian was shot by police last Wednesday night during anti-drug operations. The police claimed that the teenager had drawn a gun and fired at them.

The police also presented a drug suspect who claimed that Kian was  involved in the transaction of drugs.

Kian's family has disputed the police's claims, saying that the 17-year-old had not been involved in illegal activities.

'Not against war on drugs'

Gascon stressed that the CHR will not be conducting the investigation as an act of defiance against President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs."The State has the responsibility to protect the people, but there should be a human rights perspective. The people should not be left traumatized," Gascon said.

"The approach should be harm reduction. Let us help the drug abuse victims become productive citizens instead of vilifying and targeting them. Let us help them solve their drug abuse problems by recognizing that they are humans with dignity, too," he added.

The commission also urged government officials to come up with alternative means to resolve the drug abuse problem in the Philippines.

"Do we want a society with a high spate of killings in every corner? Shouldn't the State exhaust all possible means to deter crime without putting the dignity of the Filipino people in peril?" Gascon asked.

"We are in a democratic government, but there are a lot of killings. The price of freedom and democracy is eternal vigilance. If we let our guards down, we might lose our freedom," he warned. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News