"You cannot wage a war without killing," said President Rodrigo Duterte. “In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you: are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?”

BL was 14 when police killed his brother on the railway tracks. He ran into the crime scene screaming, and was threatened with a gun if he didn’t step away. Love-love was 11 when she saw her father shot. She now lives with an aunt, her six siblings scattered among relatives. Kong Kong was 15 when he threw himself over his dying father. He is now in hiding, the bullet wound in his leg healing. Xylar was four when his father was found executed on a bridge with his face wrapped in tape. He does not understand why his father doesn’t come home. Christine was 12 when a cop shot her father in the back of his head. She was holding him just before a cop threw her against a wall.

“If I didn’t let go,” she says, “he might still be alive.”

Duterte has called addicts and dealers and users the dregs of society. He encouraged both vigilantes and the militia to gun down suspects. To date 3,904 have been killed by police. There are no final numbers of all the dead – some reports put the total at 13,000.

“Less Than Human” is the story of those who pay the price – told through the eyes of children who have been told their parents are not people. 

“Kill them all,” Rodrigo Duterte said in March, months before the May 2016 presidential elections. “When I become president, I'll order the police and the military to find these people and kill them. ”

In the beginning, he promised the deaths of a hundred thousand.

“If I couldn't convince you to stop, I'll have you killed... if you're into drugs, I'm very sorry. I'll have to apologize to your family because you'll surely get killed." He said that those who are addicted to shabu are beyond rehabilitation.

Since the first of July until the 30th of November, according to numbers released by the Philippine National Police, there have 3,993 murdered in extrajudicial killings across the country. Those who are identified are often poor, often male, often jobless, living hand to mouth and moonlighting as tricycle drivers and construction workers. Sometimes families will admit drug use and occasional peddling.

Sometimes there are witnesses – the man who saw the victim cuffed at a police station before his body was found trussed and tortured on a highway, the woman who knew the name of the cop who killed her brother, the friend who was standing at the street corner when the teenager was abducted. Very few will speak on the record. They talk about masked men wandering past their houses at night. They talk about children at risk. Sometimes they will say the dead deserved to be killed - You will be safe, for as long as you behave.  





- Text By Patricia Evangelista (excerpt from Impunity: In the name of the father)


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