MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II rejected the call of Senator Franklin Drilon to dismiss Caloocan City prosecutor Darwin Cañete from his post over his comment in connection with the case of Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos who was killed in the August 16 anti-drug operations in Caloocan.
Drilon made the call following Cañete’s Facebook post saying it was “too far-fetched” that the 17-year-old victim was innocent.
Aguirre said that based on the information from the Caloocan Office of the City Prosecutor, there is no case filed so far on the matter.
“I simply cannot order the relief of Cañete from the case of Kian De Los Santos. In the first place he is not handling the case. No case has yet been filed,” Aguirre said replying to Drilon’s statement that Delos Santos’ case has been “seriously prejudiced” by Cañete.
“How can I relieve a prosecutor from a case which he is not handling? How can I relieve him from handling a case that has yet to be filed?,” he added.
The DOJ Chief said even if Cañete was tasked to gather facts on the incident and other cases of death under investigation in the city, he is excluded in the raffle of the case.
“I was further told that once a case is filed with the City Prosecutor’s Office of Caloocan City, it is raffled among the prosecutors to ensure impartiality. And Prosecutor Cañete, the one who gathered the facts of such a case, is no longer included in the raffle of the case. This exclusion is precisely done to avoid any purported prejudgment from being present in his resolution of the case if the same is raffled to him,” he explained.
With this, the DOJ chief vowed an impartial probe on the matter.
“I understand the sentiments of Senator Franklin Drilon. I am sure that everyone wants this case to be handled with utmost impartiality and for any party responsible brought to justice. This is also my commitment to all as the people’s steward of the Department of Justice. This is the reason why I ordered the NBI to conduct a parallel investigation in this case. And I believe that the President agrees to the conduct of such a parallel investigation as narrated earlier by Education Secretary Leonor Briones,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre earlier said they would be willing to consider the inclusion of the witnesses, including the Delos Santos family to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
On Monday, PAO Chief Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta said Monday they are already preparing the complaint to be filed against the police officers allegedly responsible for Delos Santos’ death.
“We are already collating all the evidence that we will use in the filing of the complaint within the week,” Acosta said.
Delos Santos was killed during a police anti-drug operation in Barangay 160 in Caloocan City on Wednesday night last week.
The three policemen involved in the operation — Police Officers 1 Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz and Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares were already relieved from their posts.