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#PaalamKian – Empathizing with Kian Delos Santos’ parents

Two days after thousands joined the funeral march for their slain son, the parents of Kian Delos Santos was able to meet President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang Palace Monday afternoon (August 28). It can be recalled that Kian, a 17-year old Grade 11 student, was killed during a police anti-drugs operation in Caloocan City last August 16.

His death, which made national and international headlines, effectively turned him into a poster boy for the thousands of poor Filipinos who died under unexplained circumstances since Duterte launched the War on Drugs last year.

Speaking to GMA News, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said that the meeting between Kian’s parents and Duterte “went smoothly.” “The President addressed the immediate needs of the parents occasioned by the killing of Kian,” Aguirre added without mentioning any specifics.

Apart from Aguirre, Public Attorneys Office Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta and Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption were also at the meeting. Shortly after, photos of the couple posing with the President while doing his signature fist-bump pose were circulated online.

Netizens didn’t take this kindly. A lot of them voiced out that the parents should not have displayed coziness with the President who’s directly responsible for the way the police is conducting the War on Drugs. Some even spread rumors that the couple received settlement from the government, which they argued meant that the family is effectively selling-out its fight for justice over Kian’s death.

Duterte and Kian Delos Santos parents

President Rodrigo Duterte with the parents of Kian Delos Santos

Here is where The Filipino Scribe stands on the issue. To begin with, it is worth pointing out that TFS is perhaps one of the sites that expressed outrage over Kian’s apparent murder.

1) There’s nothing inherently bad in the couple’s decision to accept an offer of a personal meeting with the President. Their decision to meet Duterte can be seen as a desperate attempt on their part to seek justice for their son’s death.

2) It is doubtful if Kian’s grieving parents actually took the time to analyze the optics (ergo, the way their actions are seen by the public) of all their actions in the same way avid political observers do. In their desperation, they’d be willing to talk to anyone who’ll give them the chance to be listened at – regardless of party affiliation!

3) What if the parents did choose to just settle the case and take no active part in the upcoming litigation? It is very disheartening and disappointing, for sure. But, can you blame them?

First, because the family is poor, they probably do not have enough money to sustain a lengthy litigation. Although there are some lawyers who volunteered their services to the family, it is doubtful if they really intend to stay long after the media spotlight leaves the case.

Second, the couple is very aware that the Philippine justice system grinds very slowly, and so, they perhaps just wish to move forward with their lives.

Three, although it is very cynical to admit, there’s no guarantee that the family will prevail once the judicial process takes its course. This is the truth even if the CCTV footage and the eyewitness accounts overwhelmingly support their case. Duterte has long said that he will stand by the police no matter what.

“I will not allow, even at the risk of losing the presidency, any policeman or soldier to go to prison for destroying the drug industry,” Duterte said during the 120th anniversary of the Presidential Security Group last July. “For those who are facing charges, they can be very sure they can walk out as free men,” he added.

It is possible that even if found guilty, Duterte can just pardon the police officers involved in the killing of Kian. In that case, you can’t fault the parents for leaning on the practical side and concluding that “it’s not worth it.”

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