They are slaughtering us like animals’
Some bodies were found on the streets with their heads wrapped in packing tape. Others were left with crude cardboard signs labeling victims as dealers or addicts… What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all.” He said in October, “You can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more.”
More than 35,600 people have been arrested in antidrug operations the government calls Project Tokhang. The name is derived from a phrase meaning “knock and plead” in Cebuano, Mr. Duterte’s first language. In affluent neighborhoods of gated communities and estates, there is, indeed, sometimes a polite knock on the door, an officer handing a pamphlet detailing the repercussions of drug use to the housekeeper who answers. In poorer districts, the police grab teenage boys and men off the street, run background checks, make arrests and sometimes shoot to kill. Government forces have gone door to door to more than 3.57 million residences, according to the police. More than 727,600 drug users and 56,500 pushers have surrendered so far, the police say, overcrowding prisons…As my time in the Philippines wore on, the killings seemed to become more brazen. Police officers appeared to do little to hide their involvement in what were essentially extrajudicial executions. Nanlaban had become a dark joke. “There is a new way of dying in the Philippines,” said Redentor C. Ulsano, the police superintendent in the Tondo district. He smiled and held his wrists together in front of him, pretending to be handcuffed… J.R. said the man in the helmet said, “Goodbye, my friend,” before shooting his father in the chest. His body sank, but the man shot him twice more, in the head and cheeks. The children said the three men were laughing as they left.