Story in numbers war on drugs
The ongoing war on drugs has many faces.
Its most prominent is President Rodrigo Duterte, who has promised to spill the blood of anyone involved in drugs—dealer or user in the present or in the past. Embattled Sen. Leila de Lima is another face, one that stands in opposition and demands that the current administration take heed of human rights and proper protocol.
But there is also the face of a man in his 30s gunned down while working odd jobs well into the morning to make ends meet. Sometimes, plastic sachets of “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) or dried packets of marijuana are found in his pockets.
“Nanlaban” is what police would say, if his death is their doing. He fought back, He fired first. “Pusher ako, ’wag tularan,” is what a piece of cardboard would read, if the body is found on a dimly lit street. I am a drug pusher, don’t emulate me.
This is the real face of the war on drugs. It is a face made ordinary by the stories we see and hear day in and day out. It is a face often censored on national television along with the guns and the gore, but sometimes shown through old photographs and relived in detail by the bereaved left behind.
The first hundred days
Through its Kill List, the Inquirer seeks to tell the names and stories of the countless who, whether guilty of the crimes they died for or an unfortunate casualty, were never given their chance to defend their name.
READ: THE KILL LIST
The list begins at 12 noon on June 30, exactly when President Duterte was sworn into office on an iron-fisted platform of change.
During his first 100 days—from noon of June 30 to the end of Oct. 8—the Inquirer reported and verified 1,278 drug-related killings.
Of this number, 730 persons were shot by police in antidrug operations—325 of which in nondescript shootouts. Suspects reportedly fired first in 304 instances; suspects only managed to draw a gun or grenade in 70 cases and tried to resist arrest in 31 other cases.
Another 536 were gunned down by unidentified or masked hitmen, whether citizen vigilantes or gun-for-hire suspects. Among the 536 were 106 people found with cardboard notes strapped on their bodies and 38 others whose faces or arms were wrapped in packaging tape.
A separate eight policemen were killed in the line of duty while four others linked to the illegal drug trade were killed by people they knew.
Aug. 27 and Sept. 17 recorded the lowest number of deaths at one each; a record 33 people died on July 9, followed by 30 on Aug 3. On average, 12.52 people—whether suspected drug pushers or innocent bystanders—died every day.
The Kill List’s numbers, however, are just a fraction of what the Philippine National Police has been reporting.
According to PNP data, 1,523 “drug suspects” or “drug personalities” alone were killed in police operations between July 1 and Oct. 7, a day short of the President’s 100th day. The latest figure, released on Oct. 13 at the Senate justice committee hearing on the drug war, states that police have killed an additional 50 suspects nationwide over the course of a week.
As of Oct. 5, the PNP had 2,222 instances of “deaths under investigation,” or deaths stemming from vigilante killings.
While smaller than the PNP figure, the 1,278 names on the Kill List have been individually vetted by the Inquirer’s reporters and correspondents nationwide. The PNP has yet to respond to requests for more detailed information on their number.
As of press time, the PNP had not collated figures specifically on deaths that occurred during the President’s first 100 days. The PNP has also provided only statistics segregated by region. No other details on provinces, cities, names and other particulars were provided.
Most dangerous places, times
The most dangerous place in the Philippines, it seems, was Metro Manila, with 562 deaths—almost half of the total—monitored in the capital region alone. In second place was Cebu with 168, followed by Pangasinan and Quezon with 52 each.
Within Metro Manila, Manila and Quezon City recorded the highest number of deaths at 150 and 134, respectively. Segregated by island group, the Inquirer monitored 976 killed in Luzon, 234 in the Visayas and 68 in Mindanao.
Almost half the deaths happened in the morning. A total of 569 persons died from midnight to noon at any given day; 124 were killed in the afternoon, 326 in the evening and 259 others had no specific timestamp. The most dangerous time period is between midnight and 3 a.m.
The slain were predominantly men—at least 1,094 were identified as male compared to only 57 females. Police did not specify the gender of the 127 other persons. Twenty-two of the men were either barangay chairs, councilors or tanod. At least 20 were drivers of taxis, jeepneys, pedicabs and tricycles.
Segregated by age, 141 persons were between 31 and 40 years old, and 136 between 19 and 30. More than half, or 826 persons, were not given age ranges by the police.
Fourteen of those killed were minors, the youngest two being 4-year-old Althea Fhem Barbon from Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and 5-year-old Danica Mae Garcia from Dagupan City, Pangasinan.
The youngest suspected drug pusher killed in a police operation was 18-year-old John Paul Misterio on July 25 in Mandaue City, Cebu. Misterio, who allegedly returned to dealing after surrendering during his local Oplan Tokhang, was killed in a shootout following a buy-bust. Fourteen sachets of suspected shabu, a loaded .38-caliber revolver, P300 in marked money and other drug paraphernalia were later found in his pockets.
Dealers, users, bystanders
As reported by the Inquirer, the PNP claimed that 959 of the 1,278 killed as involved in drugs, whether as a suspected drug pusher, courier or drug den operator. Another 49 were drug surrenderers who were gunned down nonetheless. Another six were killed after allegedly returning to the drug trade after surrendering.
Sixteen of the 1,278 were either bystanders caught in the crossfire or presumed innocents who were related to either an alleged dealer or user.
Three hundred forty-three persons were found with drugs in their possession, another 60 with various drug paraphernalia. Five hundred twenty-seven were found with weapons, usually a .38-cal. pistol, but sometimes a knife. Ninety-one were found with cash, 44 of which were marked money.
This is what the numbers say. But these numbers are only a fraction of what the real face of the war on drugs looks like.
It is a face bearing a thousand and one stories of sinning and redemption often morphed into statistics for those keeping score. It is the face of countless who, whether guilty of the crime they died for or an unfortunate casualty, were never given their chance to defend their name.
Sara Isabelle Pacia is the editor behind the Kill List, the Inquirer’s effort to track the names and stories of the lives lost in the ongoing all-out war on drugs. Read the full list, which continues to be updated every Monday and Thursday, at http://inq.news/kill-list.