An erosion of human rights enables the brutal approach to drug policy taken in some Asian countries, says Mangai Balasegaram, but recent teen deaths in the Philippines have sparked massive public outrage, and she asks if this could mark a turning point in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody War on Drugs.

At 8.45pm on 16 August, Kian delos Santos was gunned down in a dark, dead-end corner in the Manila suburb of Caloocan. He was yet another statistic in a bloody drug war in the Philippines that has left about 7,000 dead. In the preceding week, 90 people had been killed.

This death of delos Santos was different. He was just 17, and CCTV footage conflicted with the account from Police, that this was “nanlaban”, a common justification for killing, meaning he resisted arrest and tried to fire back.

Witnesses told local media that a defenceless delos Santos was beaten and dragged from near his home to where he was found dead, curled in the foetal position, with bullet wounds in his ear and back. The last words of the high school student went viral: “Please stop! Please stop! I have a test tomorrow!”

Stories of a responsible, caring teenager who got up at 5.30am to help run the family store cast further doubt on Police claims.

Thumbnail: New Zealand Drug Foundation