It was like the cliffhanger ending of a thriller, I was told, in that it could have gone either way at the very last moment. And early the other day, Saldy and Lorenza delos Santos had only a few minutes to decide their fate.
They could cast their lot with those who wanted to use them as Exhibit A and B in the campaign against extrajudicial killings that their slain son, Kian Loyd, had single-handedly reignited. Or they could believe President Rodrigo Duterte, who promised them justice for Kian and punishment for his killers.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta was on her way to pick up the Delos Santoses from their home early on Tuesday, to take them to an audience with Duterte. Acosta would just be a few minutes ahead of another group, which would parade Kian’s parents at the launching of a self-styled anti-tyranny movement in a Catholic seminary in New Manila, Quezon City.
When Acosta arrived first at the Delos Santoses’ home in Quezon City, Saldy and Lorenza had apparently already made up their mind, a source who was involved with the talks with the couple but who has not been authorized to speak for the spouses told me. And they went with the PAO chief, thus embracing Duterte—which Lorenza did literally some time afterwards —and repudiating those who wanted, as I described it in yesterday’s column, to politically weaponize their grief.
The rest, many already know. Duterte met the Delos Santoses in a private audience for more than two hours, with only a handful of people in attendance; he also gave Lorenza a hug, upon the grieving mother’s request.
It was during the meeting that Duterte explained to the couple why he could not visit Kian’s wake, which every anti-Duterte politician had already done. The President said he had to wait for the report of the National Bureau of Investigation on the incident, since it would not look good if he visited and appeared to be favoring Kian prematurely.
“I am also the head of the police and I don’t want to prejudge them,” Duterte told the couple, according to the source. “I cannot look like I am punishing them without basis.”
After the meeting, the slain young man’s parents urged everyone not to involve them in partisan politics. What they wanted, they said, was justice for their son, implying that they trusted Duterte (and Duterte alone) to give them what they sought.
It was also reported that Lorenza was an overseas Filipino worker and a member of a militant urban poor organization. They were Duterte supporters, like most poor people, but it was really Kian’s grandfather who was the leader of a local pro-Duterte movement.
Yesterday, Kian’s parents went to the Department of Justice to begin the process of going into the government’s Witness Protection Program. There, safe in the government’s protection, they will most likely be able to talk freely about how they were courted by forces attempting to bring down the Duterte government by using Kian as the poster boy for the human-rights crowd—including reports that they had been offered money to join the effort.
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My source said the Delos Santos couple was offered P2 million in cash by the anti-Duterte crowd for their “cooperation.” Their presence at the launching of the group calling itself the Movement Against Tyranny at the CICM seminary in New Manila, Quezon City was to be the start of what was probably envisioned as a long roadshow presentation, where they would appear and speak about their son and the bullet-riddled fate that befell him that fateful day in Caloocan City—and the beginning of their repayment of the money given to them.
I will not identify those who allegedly made the offer of money to the couple. The disclosure of that information will really be up to the Delos Santoses and the government prosecutors they are talking to at this point.
But as I’ve already written, the couple’s decision to believe Duterte’s promise took the wind out of the sails of those who thought that Kian’s killing was their chance to bring down the President using that incident. And, according to my source, a pall of gloom has descended on these would-be crusaders for justice, “because they know they had the boy’s parents, and they many never get a chance like that again.”
When the people ordered by those who wanted to use Kian as a political battering ram against Duterte arrived to fetch Saldy and Lorenza, of course, the couple was no longer there. The couple had already decided that the President was not the bloodthirsty killer that those frantically whispering in their ears for an entire week said he was.
It’s up to Duterte now to prove that the trust given by the couple to him has not been misplaced. Or they could once again start listening to siren song of the anti-Duterte gang—and make a small fortune besides.
Duterte has to show that he will punish those who killed Kian to the fullest extent of the law. And he must prove that he really meant it when he took Lorenza into his arms for a consoling embrace.
Justice, for Kian’s parents, is non-negotiable and does not carry a price tag. And these are the kind of people that Duterte must not disappoint, no matter how many many inroads he makes in his campaign against illegal drugs, corruption and all the other stuff that he says has kept us from being the great nation that we can be.
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