Photographs & Videos by Ezra Acayan, Alyx Arumpac, Dante Diosina, Kimberly Dela Cruz, Vincent Go, Eloisa Lopez, Carlo Gabuco, Bro Jun Santiago, Basilio Sepe, Jes Aznar, Raffy Lerma, Jay Ganzon, Linus Escandor
“At his election, His Excellency Rodrigo Duterte made a promise: an end to the scourge of illegal drugs.
“Forget the laws on human rights,” he said at his final campaign rally. “If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you. I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”
Every night, for almost a year, we have covered the night shift. Photographers, writers, filmmakers, in crime scene after crime scene, documented the corpses of alleged drug addicts and dealers that lay across alleys and bridges. Some of them were strangled, wrapped in plastic, their wrists and ankles bound, with scrawled signs left beside them calling them criminals. Some of them, more than two thousand, were shot by law enforcement for allegedly fighting back. In a year, at least 7,000 are dead.
There are no front lines in this war. The battlefields are inside households and in street corners. The enemy the government calls less than human are often young, male, and impoverished, their families barely able to pay for the coffins.
It is, for those of us on the field, a continued struggle between neutrality and compassion. Stories about carnage on the streets are condemned as support for illegal drugs. Witnesses are terrified. Killers are called heroes. A stand in defense of human rights is often called an attack against government.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews,” said the President on September of 2016. “Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
There has been international condemnation and local resistance, but one year into the war, the numbers are still mounting. We still tell the story. We still follow the corpses. We don’t pretend there will be justice, but we will keep covering, to show the world the lives that should have been lived.”
A WARM Production
Partner: Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents