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A horrifying image of a schoolboy being dragged to a violent death in a dirty alleyway has galvanised the Philippines against a brutal state-led war on drugs that has killed over 12,500 people in the last year.
For a nation now largely immune to the bloodied corpses of alleged small time drugs users and dealers dumped on the streets, the graphic reports of the final moments of Kian Delos Santos, 17, who was allegedly shot three times by undercover police officers, have been too much to bear.
His killing last week has united the public, senior politicians and the Catholic Church into the most significant sweep of mass protests since President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for a savage crackdown on drugs after his election last June.
Most of the 12,500 casualties have been killed by masked assassins. An estimated 3,500 have been killed in police shoot-outs, which officers often claim were self-defence.
In the case of Delos Santos, the police initially claimed he had fired first.
But their story was contradicted by witnesses and CCTV footage that showed the teenager being dragged down alleyways into a dead-end corner where he was asked to run with a gun, and shot when he did.
He was heard screaming “Please can I go home, I have school tomorrow.”
Delos Santos is one of 81 people killed last week during mass police raids in what was the bloodiest period of the drugs war so far. His bullet-ridden, semi-naked body was found in a foetal position with a gun in his hand.
Speaking to Rappler news, his parents, Saldy and Lorenza, said he was a well-behaved teenager who loved watching YouTube and who helped with the family shop. His only vice was eating cheese-flavoured crisps.
On the night he died, his father gave him a prescient warning to come home early. “You know how it is on our street, it could be dangerous,” Saldy said.
Images of his devastated parents, comforting each other by his open casket have since dominated the local media. “I need to speak up for my son,” Lorenza told reporters.
Saldy Delos Santos hit out at police attempts to smear his son’s name by alleging he was a drugs runner. “We are the victims here. We are the ones you should help,” he said.
Several children have been caught in the crossfire of the drugs war, but the killing of Delos Santos has resonated in a way that none other has done before.
Church leaders have led the outcry, pledging to ring church bells every evening in protest. The senate has launched an inquiry into the escalation in killings, and people have gathered in candlelit vigils.
Vice-president Leni Robredo, said Delos Santos could have been her own child. “How many Kians have we had? How many more Kians will follow?” she asked.
Three police officers, suspected of the murder, are currently in custody while the case is probed. Mr Duterte’s hardline stance wavered on Monday when he said if they were guilty they would “rot in jail.”
Meanwhile the poignancy of his son’s future ambitions are not lost on Delos Santos’ father.
“They killed an innocent child. And to think, he wanted to be a policeman,” he said.