Public support for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs may be eroding after the apparent police killing of a 17-year-old boy last week. Security footage appears to refute the police story that the teen fired a gun at them.
The tide of public support for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war may have turned, The Atlantic reports. In a special operation last week, police killed more than 80 people in three nights, the highest death toll since Duterte came to office last summer and pledged to eradicate drug traffickers. He has kept good on that promise: While official estimates put police killings at about 3,500, human-rights groups and activists estimate that it’s between 7,000 and 13,000. Many of the country’s poorest citizens live in fear, not of criminals, but of police who are accused of committing extrajudicial killings. Even so, Duterte, a tough-talking populist, has enjoyed wide support. A poll last month showed the highest public support since he took office. But this may be changing after the apparent police killing of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos.
Last Wednesday, officers shot and killed delos Santos in a special operation, saying he was a drug trafficker. They claimed the young man fired a gun at them. Security footage emerged that seems to refute this story. In many similar instances, critics say police fire indiscriminately on people in poor neighborhoods, or target addicts, not traffickers, then plant guns on them to make it appear like they fired on police. This is what the footage in delos Santos’s killing seems to capture. Witnesses said that after officers grabbed the teenager, he begged to be let go, saying, “Please can I go home, I have school tomorrow.” Security footage shows officers dragging him down an alleyway, where they allegedly handed delos Santos a gun and told him to run. An autopsy found delos Santos was shot first in the back, then twice more at close range into the side of the head, suggesting he was executed. Delos Santos’ story has struck a chord. Over the weekend and on Tuesday, a confluence of opposition voices put the normally bombastic president on the defensive.