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Story Publication logo August 15, 2017

Killers Haunt a Wake

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Many families sleep on Mabini Street of Malate, Manila, often suffering not only from poverty but substance abuse problems. By May 2016, a little over one month before the inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, extrajudicial killings have taken the lives of over 8,000 Filipinos. As of June 2017, almost all the homeless who sleep on Mabini Street are no longer there, their whereabouts unknown. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2016.
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When he made a pitch for the presidency of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte made a bold promise to...

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Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2017.
Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2017.

The rain came in big fat pellets. It pounded on the filmsy roof of Dolores's home, threatening to drip through its holes.

Whenever it rained like this, Toto would climb the roof of the house laying heavy rocks to weigh down the tarpaulines that kept the rain out. "He could climb so fast and so high, you'd think he was Spiderman," Dolores laughed softly at the memory.

And then she began to cry.

It was after midnight when the men in black masks came for Toto.

Earlier that day, a theft had been reported in the Navotas fish market where Toto worked. The masked men said they were there to teach him a lesson.

Dolores and her husband were asleep upstairs. By the time they woke up, it was over. Toto was dead, shot through the face and mouth.

Dolores is convinced that he had shouted "Mama" before they shot him.

The men came again during Toto's wake. They revved their motorcycles and circled the street where the wake was held—watching, taunting, baiting. Like vultures. Mourners stopped coming to the wake until it was only the family who stood by and watched over Toto during his last days.

"It was as if they wanted to make sure my son was really dead. They are evil. They are demons!" Dolores spat out, her shoulders heaving.

Toto was 16-years-old.

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