Story

Fruits of Impunity: Collateral Damage in Duterte’s War on Drugs

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Vast slums in Navotas, adjacent to the vast slums of Tondo, sit next to the vast slums of Malabon—and so it goes. The "War on Drugs" is a de facto war on the poor, the segment of Philippine society who had hoped that Duterte, the people's president, would  have lifted them up.  Now their slums have become killing fields.  Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Vast slums in Navotas, adjacent to the vast slums of Tondo, sit next to the vast slums of Malabon—and so it goes. The "War on Drugs" is a de facto war on the poor, the segment of Philippine society who had hoped that Duterte, the people's president, would  have lifted them up.  Now their slums have become killing fields. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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No one knows exactly how many have fallen victim to Duterte's squads: Those who will talk about it suggest at least 20,000 people have been killed on the streets. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

No one knows exactly how many have fallen victim to Duterte's squads: Those who will talk about it suggest at least 20,000 people have been killed on the streets. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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Paying the highest price for this slaughter is borne by the teen widows.  In the slums, women have lost their husbands. often ending up as sex workers to support their families. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Paying the highest price for this slaughter is borne by the teen widows.  In the slums, women have lost their husbands. often ending up as sex workers to support their families. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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The bloodbath has not dented President Duterte's  popularity, indeed: he has the approval almost 70 percent of the voters. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

The bloodbath has not dented President Duterte's  popularity, indeed: he has the approval almost 70 percent of the voters. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

This story, published in Italian in L'Espresso, follows the lives of three women whose husbands or sons fell victim to extrajudicial killings during President Duterte's war on drugs. James Whitlow Delano's summary appears below:

The killings continue, but the pace has slowed.

Jocelyn Banting, now 15 years old, a widow and sex worker, was arrested for possessing 0.02 grams of methampethamine. She lied, saying she was 19, and is now in adult jail. Her mother Leni believed she would be released a few days ago but the documents she had were rejected. Leni begins a bureaucratic journey into the legal system here while raising Jocelyn’s baby and her other daughter in a shack on the former Smoky Mountain dumpsite.

Jazmine Durana, now 16, has returned to live in her mother’s single-room house in the slums, sharing it with two brothers and a sister, while raising her toddler. She struggles to raise roughly US$30 to start a drink-stand business.

Remy Fernandez, the 84-year-old grandmother, continues to raise seven grandchildren after her son was killed. Her daughter-in-law, Lourdes, has just been released from prison, after serving her drug sentence. Lourdes disappeared for three days as Remy searched friends’ homes, the police station and was about to go to the morgue when a grandniece implied that she knew her whereabouts. Remy fears her daughter-in-law may fall back into addiction, becoming a target for an EJK—common once someone is a known drug user or pusher.

 

 

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