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Story Publication logo August 17, 2017

Stains on Duterte's Society

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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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What happens to civil society in a country that democratically elects a leader who encourages the...

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Remy Fernandez, 84-years-old, holds her grandchildren that she is raising, there are seven in all, because her son, Constantino de Juan, a methamphetamine user, was killed by masked men and the mother is in prison due to a drug arrest. The chair in which she sits has a hole in it after it passed through his body. Baby RJ was born in prison. Constantino, upon seeing the masked assassins, instructed CJ, 5-years-old and wearing the red tank top, to take care of his siblings because he knew he was about to be…
Remy Fernandez, 84-years-old, holds her grandchildren that she is raising, there are seven in all, because her son, Constantino de Juan, a methamphetamine user, was killed by masked men and the mother is in prison due to a drug arrest. The chair in which she sits has a hole in it after it passed through his body. Baby RJ was born in prison. Constantino, upon seeing the masked assassins, instructed CJ, 5-years-old and wearing the red tank top, to take care of his siblings because he knew he was about to be assassinated. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Philippines, 2017.

Remy could not bring herself to wash the blood off of the blue stuffed chair where her son, Juan, had had been shot.

"I told him to get away from here. There were so many people getting killed and I was scared something would happen to him," said the 84-year-old, weeping.

Juan didn't want to leave. He was a scavenger like many other people in the part of Payatas where they lived, but he wasn't a drug user or pusher, he told his mother.

But Juan was an obedient son. He was Remy's youngest and rarely did he ever say no to her. So he went off to another part of town, leaving his seven children in Remy's care.

He came back that fateful day in December 2016 to celebrate the birthday of his daughter, Joanne. He wanted to cook the usual birthday fare of spaghetti and Remy went out to buy ketchup.

Juan was cooking when armed masked men barged into their home and sat Juan and his children down in the blue sofa lined against the wall. Kristine,12, instinctively wrapped her arms around her father but one of the men yanked her away and shoved the other children out of the house.

The children heard their 38-year-old father beg for his life before he was shot dead.

More than a month had passed before Remy brought the blue stuffed chair outside her home and hosed it down. Blood mixed with water flowed out and to Remy's old fragile heart, it felt like her son had died all over again.

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Drug Crises

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