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The People Left Behind by Philippines' Brutal War on Drugs

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Jasmine Durana, 16, lost her husband to Duterte’s war on drugs. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Jasmine Durana, 16, lost her husband to Duterte’s war on drugs. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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.

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The house where Durana’s partner was shot by masked assassins. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

The house where Durana’s partner was shot by masked assassins. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Jasmine Durana hopes that these containers, hanging from the rafters of her makeshift house in a Navotas slum, will help her launch a new business selling drinks in the market or in front of a local school. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Jasmine Durana hopes that these containers, hanging from the rafters of her makeshift house in a Navotas slum, will help her launch a new business selling drinks in the market or in front of a local school. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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To earn money, Jasmine Durana’s sister, Joanna, and her mother, Vicky, take care of children during the day in their house. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

To earn money, Jasmine Durana’s sister, Joanna, and her mother, Vicky, take care of children during the day in their house. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Poster promotes the ‘Tokhang’ campaign two years after it began. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Poster promotes the ‘Tokhang’ campaign two years after it began. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Durana posts photos of her late husband on social media. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Durana posts photos of her late husband on social media. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Jasmine Durana has posted a photo of her late husband on social media. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Jasmine Durana has posted a photo of her late husband on social media. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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.

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Jasmine Durana. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Jasmine Durana. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Lenie Banting’s other daughter, Rubylyn prepare an egg over a propane flame at their makeshift house on the former Smoky Mountain dumpsite. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Lenie Banting’s other daughter, Rubylyn prepare an egg over a propane flame at their makeshift house on the former Smoky Mountain dumpsite. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Rhoda, a widow who is raising seven children after her husband was killed in an extrajudicial killing, walks through the streets of Payatas to deliver an Avon product, which she started selling door to door in January 2018. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Rhoda, a widow who is raising seven children after her husband was killed in an extrajudicial killing, walks through the streets of Payatas to deliver an Avon product, which she started selling door to door in January 2018. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Rhoda and her children. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Rhoda and her children. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Rhoda hands over an Avon purchase to her neighbour, as her business has begun to slowly expand, on the first floor of her house, she was forced to abandon due to recurring flooding. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Rhoda hands over an Avon purchase to her neighbour, as her business has begun to slowly expand, on the first floor of her house, she was forced to abandon due to recurring flooding. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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The alleyway, guarded by a neighbour’s dog, in front of Rhoda’s house floods so badly and so often that a makeshift plank boardwalk has been laid down. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

The alleyway, guarded by a neighbour’s dog, in front of Rhoda’s house floods so badly and so often that a makeshift plank boardwalk has been laid down. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Rhoda and her children. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Rhoda and her children. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.

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Ginnalyn Soriano, 21 encounters the body of her elder brother, Julius, 24, whose corpse is being carried away in a body bag after he was executed. His body showed signs that his hands were bound before he was shot dead during a police operation in Caloocan, Metro Manila. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Ginnalyn Soriano, 21 encounters the body of her elder brother, Julius, 24, whose corpse is being carried away in a body bag after he was executed. His body showed signs that his hands were bound before he was shot dead during a police operation in Caloocan, Metro Manila. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.”

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Two years into President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Tokhang” war on drugs and, by some accounts, over 13,000 deaths—more than the official death toll during the nine years of martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos—Duterte remains highly popular with the Filipino voting public. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Two years into President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Tokhang” war on drugs and, by some accounts, over 13,000 deaths—more than the official death toll during the nine years of martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos—Duterte remains highly popular with the Filipino voting public. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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.”

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A man under the influence of drugs has passed out in front of a store entrance, a highly dangerous thing to do in Navotas. where there have been dozens of extrajudicial killings since the beginning of Duterte’s “Tokhang” drug war. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

A man under the influence of drugs has passed out in front of a store entrance, a highly dangerous thing to do in Navotas. where there have been dozens of extrajudicial killings since the beginning of Duterte’s “Tokhang” drug war. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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.

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A homeless woman in Malate seeks change to buy food for her toddler. The streets of Manila are home to thousands of homeless Filipinos who sleep on the sidewalks, sea walls, under awnings and in stairwells - anywhere they can get rest without being told to move on. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

A homeless woman in Malate seeks change to buy food for her toddler. The streets of Manila are home to thousands of homeless Filipinos who sleep on the sidewalks, sea walls, under awnings and in stairwells - anywhere they can get rest without being told to move on. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Young boys ride past a tombstone engraving shop on in Navotas. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Young boys ride past a tombstone engraving shop on in Navotas. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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Boys, armed with a knife and a rusty machete, emerge from a slum in Tondo, Manila, to pursue a rival across a highway, through rush-hour traffic to attack him. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Boys, armed with a knife and a rusty machete, emerge from a slum in Tondo, Manila, to pursue a rival across a highway, through rush-hour traffic to attack him. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Street children and a man with cerebral palsy shelter in the doorway of a hostess bar in Malate, Manila, a known area for sex tourists from South Korea and Japan. In Manila, thousands of people sleep outside in doorways, under awnings on the sidewalks and on sea walls every night of the year. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Street children and a man with cerebral palsy shelter in the doorway of a hostess bar in Malate, Manila, a known area for sex tourists from South Korea and Japan. In Manila, thousands of people sleep outside in doorways, under awnings on the sidewalks and on sea walls every night of the year. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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."

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A pedi-trishaw filled to the brim with children on the main road outside of the Navotas slum, where Jasmine Durana lives. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

A pedi-trishaw filled to the brim with children on the main road outside of the Navotas slum, where Jasmine Durana lives. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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.

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The hands of 85-year-old Remy Fernandez, who has looked after seven grandchildren since her son was killed. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

The hands of 85-year-old Remy Fernandez, who has looked after seven grandchildren since her son was killed. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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.

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Remy Fernandez’s son, a methamphetamine user, was shot. She has been left to raise seven grandchildren. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Remy Fernandez’s son, a methamphetamine user, was shot. She has been left to raise seven grandchildren. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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Remy Fernandez, carrying grandchild RJ, makes way for a porter carrying lotus leaves to market. She must make an hour-long climb up a mountain trail to where she can buy produce directly from farmers to sell at a higher rate of profit. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

Remy Fernandez, carrying grandchild RJ, makes way for a porter carrying lotus leaves to market. She must make an hour-long climb up a mountain trail to where she can buy produce directly from farmers to sell at a higher rate of profit. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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A deeply worried, Remy Fernandez (wearing a yellow T-shirt), asks if anyone has seen her daughter-in-law, Lourdes, who was missing after being released from prison on drug charges. She is looking after seven grandchildren since her son was executed. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

A deeply worried, Remy Fernandez (wearing a yellow T-shirt), asks if anyone has seen her daughter-in-law, Lourdes, who was missing after being released from prison on drug charges. She is looking after seven grandchildren since her son was executed. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018. 

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A banana stall in Manila. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

A banana stall in Manila. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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

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This huge mountain of trash in Payatas provides a living to residents on its fringes, through picking recyclables from the other trash and selling it to dealers in the community. Payatas has been plagued by drug use and, as a result, it has been a magnet for the masked assassins who carry out extrajudicial killings, leaving many families without a breadwinner. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

This huge mountain of trash in Payatas provides a living to residents on its fringes, through picking recyclables from the other trash and selling it to dealers in the community. Payatas has been plagued by drug use and, as a result, it has been a magnet for the masked assassins who carry out extrajudicial killings, leaving many families without a breadwinner. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

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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There are an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the Philippines. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.

There are an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the Philippines. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2018.