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  • Mourners display a streamer during a funeral march for Kian delos Santos in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines, on August 26, 2017.

    Mourners display a streamer during a funeral march for Kian delos Santos in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines, on August 26, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 August 2017

The march turned into one of the biggest protests yet against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

More than a thousand people have attended a funeral march for Kian Loyd delos Santos, the 17-year-old boy whose death at the hands of police has drawn widespread criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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Nuns, priests and hundreds of children, chanting “justice for Kian, justice for all,” joined the funeral procession in light rain as delos Santos’ flower-draped coffin made its way from a church to the cemetery where the 17-year-old was buried.

“I hope that what happened to my son will not happen to members of their families,” Saldy delos Santos, the boy’s father, said of the police officers. He wore a white shirt with the words “Justice for Kian” written on an image of a black ribbon.

“The whole village knows my son as a good boy,” he added. “All he knows is how to help the family. How can they say he was on drugs?”

Delos Santos was one of the 96 people killed in the Manila area last week in what police called a “one-time, big-time” crackdown on drug dealers and addicts.

According to witnesses and CCTV footage, delos Santos was dragged by plain-clothes policemen to a dark, trash-filled alley in northern Manila, before he was shot in the head and left next to a pigsty.

Police claimed they acted in self defense after delos Santos opened fire on them. But an autopsy showed Delos Santos was shot in the back of the head while on the floor, suggesting that there was no gunfight.

Since Duterte took office, more than 3,500 people have been killed in what the Philippine National Police, PNP, claims were gunfights with drug suspects who had resisted arrests. Some 2,000 additional people were killed in other drug-related incidents that the PNP denies involvement in.

Since the death of delos Santos, Duterte's political opponents have urged him to end a "culture of impunity."

On Saturday, the president’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, reiterated that the government would not tolerate wrongdoing by law enforcers and called on the public to "trust the justice system under the Duterte presidency."

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But Katherine David, 35, whose 21-year-old son was shot dead by police with two other men in January, said the response to Kian's killing marks a turning point in opposition to the drug war.

“There's been a big change. Before, police could kill and nobody paid attention. Now people are starting to show support and sympathy,” she said to Reuters. 

The parents and lawyers of delos Santos have filed a murder complaint against the three anti-narcotics policemen involved in his death on Friday. If accepted, the complaint would follow at least two cases filed last year against police over Duterte’s war on drugs.

It’s still unclear whether delos Santos’ death will unite the opposition into a front against Duterte. But Edwin Lacierda, a political strategist, told the New York Times that the call for justice has begun. 

“The Senate hearings and rallies have seen to that. That call for change has likewise begun, both from the people and those within the government,” he said. 

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