Murder, torture raps filed vs. police over Kian's death

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — The family of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos on Friday filed murder and torture charges against policemen involved in the drug operation that led to the student's death.

The Public Attorney's Office (PAO) lawyers assisted Kian's parents in filing the cases before the Justice Department at noon. At the DOJ office in Manila were Kian's father Saldy and mother Lorenza, an overseas Filipino worker who flew in from the Middle East upon learning about Kian's death.

Chief Inspector Amor Cerillo, Police Officer (PO) 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz are facing raps of murder and violation of Republic Act no. 9745 or the "Anti-Torture Act of 2009."

If found guilty, the policemen face up to 40 years imprisonment for "torture resulting in the death" of the victim, according to the law.

The four policemen tagged in Kian's death have been relieved from their posts. Caloocan City Police Chief Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna and Northern Police District Chief Roberto Fajardo have also been administratively relieved to ensure an impartial investigation.

Kian, a Grade 11 student, died in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City on August 16. Police said he was a drug courier.

Eyewitness "Choleng," her face covered as she went with PAO lawyers and Kian's kin in filing the criminal charges, said in her affidavit she saw Cruz and Pereda dragging Kian at around 8 p.m. that day.

After learning about Kian's death, Choleng said she went to the barangay hall and managed to ask one of the policemen whom she identified as Pereda why they killed Kian.

She said Pereda told her Kian resisted arrest and fought back.

PAO lawyers said the testimonies and pieces of evidence they have obtained are strong enough for prosecutors to find a probable cause for charging the suspects.

"Eyewitness po yun… At nakita niya ang mga mukha ng mga pulis. Positively identified po niya kaya malakas (ang kaso)," PAO Chief Persida Acosta said.

[Translation: "That's an eyewitness. And she saw the policemen's faces. She positively identified them so the case is strong."]

In an interview with CNN Philippines later in the evening, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Oscar Albayalde said the police officers involved had been under restrictive custody at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Albayalde admitted that what happened to Kian showed the need to remind police officers again about sticking to protocols.

"We really have to revisit our police operations. We really have to check on it so that we will be able to correct (lapses)," he said.

During the Senate hearing on Thursday, Cruz and Pereda admitted they were the policemen seen in the CCTV footage shown dragging someone at night, but they said it was a police asset and not Kian.

What was established at the Senate probe on the incident was that Cruz, Pereda, and Oares were together in the bloody operation, and that Oares' gun was used to shoot Kian dead.

None of the policemen, however, would say who actually fired the shot at Kian.

Kian was among the 82 casualties of a series of "One-time, big-time" anti-drug operations in Metro Manila and nearby province of Bulacan from August 15-18.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that if the policemen implicated in Kian's case are found guilty, they must go to jail.

READ: What we know so far about Kian's death