Kian delos Santos is a 17 year old Grade 11 student from Our Lady of Lourdes College in Valenzuela. He has four siblings and both of his parents are making a living through the small sari-sari store that they have. Kian died on August 16, 2017 in a one-time big time drug operation by the Caloocan Police. According to the police, they were forced to return fire “to prevent further aggression.” Kian delos Santos was the alleged gunman in the incident. Investigations are still ongoing, but evidences show that it is highly unlikely for Kian to have been the gunman in the shootout.
Kian is just one of the many minor or student casualties in President Duterte’s drug war, ranging from the 22 year old Rowena Tiamson, to 4 year old Althea Barbon. Most of the deaths are from bystanders who just happen to be in the area, but in the case of Kian, he was an alleged drug courier in the incident.
Civic groups such as Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center identified Kian as the 54th minor who was a casualty in President Duterte’s war on drugs. They’ve identified other similar incidents, such as the death of Hideyoshi Kawata, a 17 year old who died in a buy-bust operation in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. Raymart Siapo, a teenager, was kidnapped by 14 gunmen before being killed in Navotas. These incidents have been connected to either the vigilante groups or the police force.
While these horrendous acts of extrajudicial killings were happening to minors outside campuses, the government has issued a strict warning to the usage of drugs by mandating a random drug testing throughout the country. ACT Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro sees the random drug testing mandated by the DepEd and the CHED as a way for the war on drugs to expand their reach. They also claim that this move might lead to more bloodshed in the school setting. As they said, “[c]hildren are already being made victims of tokhang even without the drug testing. What more if it is fully implemented in our schools, against our students and teachers? They say it’s for rehabilitation and prevention but in an anti-drug campaign such as this, no rehabilitation and prevention at all will happen.”
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones reasons out the increase of drug awareness programs in the school setting as a call for institutions to teach about the real-world effects of drug abuse. She recounted a report that happened to two Silliman University students, the death of the 17-year old Loreen Ramirez and the 21-year old Nikki Pinero. The culprit, Michael Anabesa Manayon, committed the act while on a drug-induced rage after a longboard event which Loreen’s boyfriend participated on. She calls this incident a “senseless death” and asks the help of universities and institutions to become the storytellers for their students. Briones said in an interview, “Lagyan natin ng reality framework itong pagturo natin ng composition ng drugs. Ang aking iniisip, real life stories: Naloloka sa drugs, nare-rehabilitate, so ngayon maayos na buhay.”
Amidst the conflicting efforts by different groups, one thing still stands: whether Kian was really connected to the drug trade or not, death should not have been an option for him and for the countless deaths happening because of the war on drugs. Students are now living in a society where every corner, even the school grounds are unsafe for them. Instead of thinking about their projects and exams, they end up worrying if they can go home alive and safe.
Proper education on the effects and rehabilitation of drug addicts are important in the school setting, but we should not be blinded by the improper use of power done by the authority just to get to their goal. With the current administration slowly losing its concern over our human rights, we ask the students to remain vigilant in the changes happening in and out of their campuses.