The people left behind by Philippines' brutal war on drugs — PinoyExchange

The people left behind by Philippines' brutal war on drugs

The people left behind by Philippines' brutal war on drugs - photo essay

One year after visiting the Philippines to document the impact of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs, photographer James Whitlow Delano returns to the city of Navotas, Metro Manila, to assess the impact of a campaign that has now claimed up to 20,000 lives

by Hannah Summers

Teenage widow Jasmine Durana dries off her 18-month-old daughter, Hazel, after a morning bath, before preparing a fire to make breakfast. Plastic jerrycans hang on the rafters behind her in the one-room slum dwelling she shares with her parents, two brothers and younger sister.

The single mother, who saved for a month to pay for the containers, hopes they will help her to launch a new business selling drinks in the market or near a local school.

The 16-year-old is trying to move on with her life as best she can after her husband was gunned down in an extrajudicial killing. He was among more than 4,500 people killed in the Philippines in what the authorities claim to be lawful anti-drug operations carried out in the two years since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Human rights groups say the actual number of deaths could be up to three times higher, with police officers routinely executing unarmed suspects and, in many instances, planting drugs or weapons on their victims to justify the killings.

Durana’s daughter was born just a month before her husband, John “Toto” Dela Cruz, 16, was pulled by his hair on to his porch and shot four times in the head and chest.

Until last year, she was still living in the slum home where Cruz was murdered. She has since moved back in with her parents and siblings for extra support.

Hazel’s biological father, who lives far from Metro Manila on the island of Samar, does not acknowledge the child as his own. But Durana, who met Cruz while she was pregnant, had vowed to support Hazel. She keeps his memory alive by posting photographs of him on social media.

Durana, who left mainstream education at the age of nine after her lower leg was crushed in an accident, says her family often goes hungry. Sometimes there is no formula for Hazel.

Malnutrition is a serious issue in the slums of Metro Manila and across the Philippines. The Food Nutrition and Research Institute revealed in 2015 that 33.4% of Filipino children suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting.

Duterte’s war on drugs has left thousands of children living as orphans or in single-parent families struggling to put food on the table.

Rhoda, a 29-year-old widow, found herself responsible for seven children after her husband, Crisanto,who used to be a rubbish picker at the Payatas dump, was killed by police in a crackdown on illegal drug use. Rhoda was left alone to care for four children from her late husband’s previous marriage, two from her own previous marriage, and one from their marriage together.

An ulcerous infection on her thigh prevented her from working last year, but since January she has been selling beauty products door to door.

Rhoda says she can earn 4,000 pesos a month (£59) from this work. Her children bring in some extra income selling chickens.

The extrajudicial killings that have splintered families have mostly occurred in impoverished areas of Metro Manila, although deaths of this nature have also risen in Cebu and other cities.

The victims, typically poor urban Filipinos, were killed after allegedly fighting back during raids, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Thousands more have been killed throughout the country by unidentified assassins, say campaigners who claim the total number of drug-related deaths in the past two years could be as high as 20,000.

Last month, Duterte vowed to forge ahead with his war on drugs, saying: “It will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began

Speaking in his third state of the nation address, he also condemned human rights advocates in the country for failing to criticise “drug-lordism, drug dealing and drug pushing”.

Duterte said: “Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over.”

He went on to defend his crackdown on narcotics, which has been largely backed by the voting public in the Philippines but has drawn fierce international criticism.

The PNP reports that it has disciplined police officers found to have committed abuses during these raids, but so far no officer has been convicted for “drug war” abuses.

PNP documents obtained by one news organisation showed that 4,540 people had been shot in anti-drugs raids, but thousands of others are believed to have been murdered by state-sponsored “vigilantes”.

Communities have been left reeling from the effects of the campaign.

Last year, Remy Fernandez, then 84, described how she was raising her seven grandchildren after her son, Constantino de Juan, a methamphetamine user, died after masked men burst through his front door and shot him.

With the children’s mother jailed after a drug arrest, it was down to her to care for the children, including the youngest, who was born in prison.

One year on, Fernandez’s daughter-in-law, Lourdes, has just been released from prison after serving her drugs sentence. But things are not going smoothly: shortly after her release, she went missing for three days, having left the house drunk and without her mobile phone.

The grandmother is worried that her daughter-in-law may fall back into addiction and become a target of the extrajudicial killings.

She worries about who will care for the children if their mother dies. The family, who live next to a contaminated stream draining the Payatas city dump, are already struggling. They relied on the rubbish heap for plastics and recycling to sell, but the site has been closed down.

There are an estimated 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines. The most common drug targeted in police operations is “shabu” or methamphetamine.


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  • The REAL people left behind - the supposedly good people who did nothing for evil to triumph!

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

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    bwahaha, si Abu 90 yrs old na

  • How about the victims were were raped and killed by drug addicts?

    Image may contain 4 people text

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    Si Abu Lolo                                                                                                    .

  • Ex-Naga dad links Leni’s brother-in-law to illegal drugs

    posted August 21, 2018 at 11:40 pm by  Rio N. Araj
    Manila Standard

    A former councilor from Naga City, Camarines Sur on Tuesday accused the brother-in-law of Vice President Leni Robredo as behind the illegal drug trade in their province.

    At a news conference in Quezon City, Luis Ortega, 81, backed the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte that Naga City is a hotbed of shabu. He said 13 out of the 27 barangays in the city are involved in illegal drug activities.

    He alleged that Butch Robredo, brother of the late Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo, who served as a city mayor since 1988 for six terms, is involved in the drug trade.

    Ortega said the vice president and even Naga City Mayor John Bongat, as well as the city residents, are aware of the proliferation of the illegal drugs in their area, even as he accused the mayor as the protector of Butch Robredo, who has gone into hiding in the United States.

    According to Ortega, he tried repeatedly to request a drug list from Naga City’s Sr. Supt. Julius Munez in February 2017 and Region 5’s then Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe on March 22, 2017, but his request was denied.

    He added that drug transactions were done in a drug lair called “Isla.” Ortega also implicated the police in the “worsening” drug problem in Naga City, saying that one police officer has even built a safehouse in the drug-infested Isla. He, however, claimed he does not have an axe to grind against the Robredos, even as he threatened to file a plunder complaint against the vice president with the Office of the Ombudsman for the construction of a “substandard” P80-million riprap project and P200-million bridge.

    Manila Standard tried to reach the Office of the Vice President and Robredo’s legal counsel Romulo Macalintal but was not successful.

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  • UN launches investigation into the Philippines' deadly drug war, a move activists say is overdue

    The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to set up an investigation into mass killings during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's self-described 'war on drugs' — a step that activists said was long overdue.

    Mr Duterte's government says that around 6,600 people have been killed by police in shootouts with suspected drug dealers since he was elected in 2016 on a platform of crushing crime.

    Activists say the death toll is at least 27,000.

    The first-ever resolution on Mr Duterte's policy, led by Iceland, was adopted by a vote of 18 countries in favour and 14 against, including China, with 15 abstentions, including Japan.

    "This is not just a step towards paying justice for the thousands of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, but it is also a message that we collectively send out to those who have praised President Duterte," said Ellecer Carlos of the Manila-based rights group iDefend.

    "This war on drugs, as we have repeatedly said, it's a sham war," he told a news briefing in Geneva.

    Filipino activists say tens of thousands are being killed as police terrorise poor communities, using arbitrary drug "watch lists" to identify suspected users or dealers, and executing many of them under the guise of sting operations.

    Myca Ulpina, a 3-year-old killed on June 29 near Manila, was among the latest and youngest known victims of the crackdown.

    Police say her father Renato had used his daughter as a human shield.

    The Philippines' UN delegation lobbied hard against the resolution, which asked national authorities to prevent extrajudicial killings and cooperate with UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet, who is to report her findings in June 2020.

    Manila promises 'far-reaching consequences'

    Philippines Ambassador Evan Garcia, speaking after the vote, read a statement by his foreign ministry rejecting the resolution as "politically-partisan and one-sided".

    His country is among the council's 47 members.

    Mr Garcia said the Duterte administration was committed to upholding justice, adding:

    "We will not tolerate any form of disrespect or acts of bad faith. There will be consequences, far-reaching consequences."

    Laila Matar of Human Rights Watch criticised his comments.

    "It was quite clear that they threatened consequences for those who had supported the resolution, which in turn makes us concerned for the many human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists on the ground," she told the briefing.

    Mr Duterte, asked by reporters in Manila whether he would allow access to UN rights officials to investigate, said: "Let them state their purpose and I will review it."

  • War on drugs is good business! You'll never be out of job because it will never end. Just like the fight to find a cure for cancer, you'll always have a job researching for a cure.
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  • A mother’s lament on Duterte’s drug war: ‘Only those in slippers are killed’

    MANILA, Philippines — Death came swiftly for 21-year-old John Jezreel David in the hands of policemen in Manila but the family’s quest for justice is moving ever so slowly two years after.

    “We do not lose hope. No matter how long the justice system takes, we still hope to gain justice for John,” Katherine Bautista, John’s stepmother, told in an interview, speaking in Filipino.

    “It was difficult to accept that you took care of someone whose life would be gone in the blink of an eye,” Bautista added.

    Bautista last saw her stepson leaving for work not knowing that the next time she sees him would be at the morgue.

    On January 18, 2017, John went to his work in Pasay City. Bautista said John was supposed to come home in the morning of January 19 but by afternoon she had lost contact with John.

    Bautista and her husband, Denisse David, went to visit John’s workplace to ask his supervisor where he is. The supervisor said John left work around 10 p.m. with a workmate, Kim Ocenar.

    Without a clue about where John was, the couple returned home. A neighbor in Tondo told Bautista that a group of policemen and village officials came to their home on January 20 to ask about young inmates who owned a motorcycle.

    Bautista immediately inquired with village officials, who informed her that the youth detainees were at the Manila police station 11.

    Bautista and her husband went to several police stations to look for John. When they checked a jail cell at Manila police station 11, an inmate told them about some individuals who were killed in Binondo.

    She still recalls what the detainee told her: “There were three victims of Oplan Tokhang that were brought to Del Pan, Binondo. Your son might be there.”

    This made Bautista worry as she recalled John narrating how some men flagged him at a checkpoint in Binondo. John was aboard his motorcycle and unidentified men on Jones Bridge blocked his path and forced him to cough up money or coffee sachets.

    Bautista and Denisse decided to check with police officers at station 11’s homicide division. Bautista held John’s photo as policemen looked.

    A check made by one of the officers of spot reports confirmed that three men, believed to be aged 30, 35 and 40, had been killed in an anti-drug operation in Binondo. Police told Bautista and Denisse to check the Cruz Funeral to see if John was one of those killed.

    At the Cruz Funeral in Blumentritt, Manila, Bautista and Denisse met the mortician who showed them photos he had saved in his phone of corpses that he had processed.

    The couple took a first look. No, this is not John. They took another look. It was him. Bautista couldn’t hold back tears as she recalled how her stepson’s corpse looked like. His naked body bore five gunshot wounds.

    ‘John’s cry’

    Days after John’s funeral, Bautista said they went to listen to residents living in a slum area in Lara Street where three men, including John and his workmate Kim, were shot dead by police officers. One of the residents said police asked them to leave their houses and move to the basketball court.

    After the area was cleared, police carried John, Kim and another man, who had their hands tied in their backs, and brought them to an old warehouse known as an “execution area.” Residents said at least seven people were murdered inside the warehouse.

    A man who lived near the warehouse told Bautista how he heard screams and cries of the victims. Bautista said the man, a survivor, was able to hide from the policemen because he was sick.

    The man said one of the victims begged, “Tell that to my father, sir.” Another pleaded: “Sir please just kill us instead of torturing us.”

    Bautista said residents requested anonymity as police officers would often go to their houses and conduct raids.

    ‘Jail police officers’

    Almost two years after Bautista’s husband filed cases against policemen who killed John, Bautista decried the slow pace of justice and stood firm in her belief that Manila Police District officers responsible for John’s killing should be jailed.

    “We wish for a speedier processing of papers that we send to them,” Bautista said, referring to the Ombudsman. “We hope the outcome is good, not just dismissal of the policemen. We want them jailed. They should pay for what they did,” she said.

    In September 2017, John’s father filed criminal complaints against Chief Insp. Leandro Gutierrez, PO3 Joel Pelayo, PO3 Ponciano Barnedo, PO2 Osmond Pring, and PO1 Edgardo Lacson in relation to the Jan. 20 murder of John.

    Bautista said the police officers filed a motion in February 2018 to dismiss the case, claiming that the operation that led to John’s killing was “legitimate.”

    Bautista continued to dispute this. She said John’s killing was not legitimate, expressing doubt about another police claim that John was on the drug list.

    “MPD station 1 covers our residence. If we received proof that John was on the drug watchlist, why did we receive it from MPD Station 11? We do not live there,” she said.

    Bautista’s family is seeking help from religious organization Rise Up for Life and for Rights.

    Forced to leave Tondo

    After filing the complaints, Bautista and her family were forced to live in Bulacan but they still fear for their lives as her husband saw one of the policemen involved in John’s killing.

    “Maybe he could not remember us but we can still recall his face,” Bautista said referring to the policeman that her husband saw.

    Even in Bulacan, Bautista said the nightmare of losing her stepson violently and in the hands of law enforcers continues to haunt her and her family.

    “Even in Bulacan we still can’t feel safe because of the drug war killings in the country. As an individual, I am advocating for the end of this culture of death,” she said.

    Prove drug war is effective

    Bautista’s family initially supported President Rodrigo Duterte but after John’s murder, she began to question the President’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

    “Prove to us that your drug war is effective. That it is not anti-poor,” Bautista said.

    Bautista said the drug war targeted only small-time drug pushers and not drug syndicates.

    “People wearing slippers are being killed not the big-time drug lords,” Bautista said.

    Innocent and poor families are being tagged as “collateral damage” in anti-drug operations, Bautista said.

    “We are one of those whom Duterte calls a collateral damage,” she said.

    Bautista said she wished the police would take a closer look at the list of their drug targets.

    “Investigate your targets. Don’t just place them in your accomplishment just to say you did something,” she said.

    Latest data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency showed that over 5,526 drug suspects were killed in anti-drug police operations from July 2016 to June 2019.

    The PNP, however, is still denying that the government’s drug war is anti-poor, noting that 7,054 high-value targets were also arrested in the same period./

  • joeriz said:

    The REAL people left behind - the supposedly good people who did nothing for evil to triumph!

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

    if you think about it.... if you are one of the good guys and evil has already won, YOU DID NOTHING.
  • Hindi sila NPA: Barangay chairman giniit na magsasaka ang todas sa ‘engkuwentro’ sa Catanduanes

    Ikakasal sana noong Lunes ang 33-anyos na magsasaka ng abaka na si Lito Aguilar, kung hindi lang napagkamalang miyembro ng New People’s Army (NPA) at nasawi sa diumano’y engkuwentro kontra sa tropa ng gobyerno noong Linggo sa Panganiban, Catanduanes.

    Kasama nitong pinaslang ang bayaw na si Christopher Abraham, 31. Pareho silang residente ng Barangay San Miguel sa nasabing bayan.

    Sa ulat na pinadala ng 9th Infantry Division ng Philippine Army (PA), dakong alas-1:20 ng madaling araw, Setyembre 22, 2019, nakaengkuwentro umano ng PA at Police Mobile Force Company ang tinatayang pitong miyembro ng NPA, kung saan 10 minuto raw ang palitan ng putok at nasawi ang dalawang “rebelde.” Wala namang naiulat na nasawi o nasaktan sa panig ng mga awtoridad, at narekober ang diumano’y AR15 rifle sa pinangyarihan ng insidente.

    Hindi makapaniwala sa nangyari ang chairman ng nasabing barangay at giniit na namali lang ng akala ang mga awtoridad.

    Aniya, aide niya si Aguilar at naghahanda ito, maging si Abraham, sa kasal kaya imposibleng miyembro ang dalawa ng NPA.

    “Lima po silang magkakasama galing sa iisang pamilya. Naghahanap po sila ng panghandang hipon sa sapa dahil ikakasal si Lito ngayong Lunes. Andoon yung motor nila sa baba at kukunin na sana nila saka sila pinagbabaril,” ayon kay Jeffrey Velasco sa ulat ng Manila Bulletin.

    Samantala, humihingi naman ng hustisya ang pamilya ng mga napagkamalang NPA.

    “Gusto ko pong bigyan ng hustisya [ang pagkamatay ng] kapatid ko. Kasal niya sa Lunes. Napagkamalan daw na NPA (New People’s Army),” ayon sa kapatid ni Aguilar na si Miles.

    Saad naman ng barangay chairman, nakaligtas sa engkuwentro ang tatlong kasamahan ng magbayaw.

  • joeriz said:

    The REAL people left behind - the supposedly good people who did nothing for evil to triumph!

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

    The President (PNoy) then emphasized that the Filipino people once lost their freedom and this may happen again if the public becomes passive in guarding democracy.
    "Minsan nang inagaw ng kapwa Pilipino ang ating kalayaan. Ibig sabihin, kung hindi tayo magiging mapagmatyag pwede itong mangyari ulit. Ngayong papasok tayo sa panibagong kabanata ng ating kasaysayan, nawa'y hindi natin malimot na ang kalayaan, kailangan bantayan at alagaan. Lahat ng mahalaga, kailangan pagsikapan, kailangan ipaglaban," he said.
    "Sabi ng isang manunulat na si Edmund Burke: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
    Where is PNoy?
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