IN PHOTOS: Police take war on drugs to Happyland

Alecs Ongcal

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IN PHOTOS: Police take war on drugs to Happyland

Alecs Ongcal

As the war on drugs continues, dozens of men are rounded up in a police operation in the city of Manila. Some of them tell Rappler, however, that they have nothing to do with drugs.

MANILA, Philippines – The sun had just set by Liselle Alvarado’s window facing the Manila Bay. Dinner was almost ready, but pesky mosquitoes made it uncomfortable for the Alvarado family.

Liselle’s husband Bert, a construction worker and father of two young children, went out to buy mosquito coils. It took him a while, however, before he could return for dinner.

Just a few steps to go before entering their home, Bert was stopped by cops from the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1. The police officers were conducting an operation to fight illegal drugs that day – Saturday, September 24.

Bert and 56 other residents from the Gawad Kalinga Compound and Happyland, Barangay 105 in Tondo, Manila were told to gather at a nearby basketball court.

ALL MALES. The police rounded up most of the men on site during the operation.

NOT ALL ARE DRUG SUSPECTS. Bystanders and shirtless men are 'invited' by the police for 'validation.'

There was hardly any tension for Bert and many of the other men at the basketball court. They were even laughing and poking fun at each other.

But on the other end of the court, it was the opposite for 10 other men – silent, heads bowed, and in handcuffs. Seven of them were caught in a buy-bust operation just before Bert was to join his family’s dinner.

Facing the media, MPD Station 1 chief Superintendent Redentor Ulsano proudly announced the arrest of Pepito Roque Jr, said to be a top drug personality in the area.

“Halos kakatapos ko lang kumain. Sumilip lang ako. Tapos nilapitan na nila ako, at inimbitahan para kausapin,” protested Roque.

(I had just finished eating. I just took a peek at what was happening. Then the police approached me and invited me for questioning.)

CHIEF. Manila Police District Station 1 Superintendent Redentor Ulsano on the way to the operation site.

PUSHER? Pepito Roque Jr (center, in blue) is number 8 in the drug watch list of local police.

“Alam naman ng lahat dito na matagal na akong tumigil mula nung lumabas ako at nag-trabaho na sa Bulacan bilang mekaniko. Kaya lang ako bumalik dito para magbigay sustento sa anak ko,” added Roque.

(Everyone here knows that I’ve long stopped using drugs since I got out of jail and started working in Bulacan as a mechanic. The only reason why I returned here is to support my child.)

Ulsano later on declared that aside from the arrested drug suspects, 57 others surrendered.

The police chief’s statement caught the surprise of Bert and the other men. “Sinabi lang po sa akin, ‘Sumama ka lang sa amin, wala naman problema kung sasama ka. For validation lang,'” narrated Basilio.

(They just told me, “Go with us, there won’t be any problems if you go with us. This is just for validation.”)

Basilio said he was just urinating when the police approached him.

CLUELESS. These men rounded up by the police are surprised as Ulsano announces to media that they are drug surrenderers.

EVIDENCE. Packets of methamphetamine or shabu, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana are confiscated from arrested drug suspects during a buy-bust operation.

PLEADING INNOCENT. Marco Ramos cries after police found a packet of shabu inside the battery compartment of his mother's mobile phone.

MPD Station 1 (Raxabago) covers the most populated area in Manila, with 330,299 residents. An estimated 5,886 people here are suspected to be drug offenders.

From July 1 to September 1, based on the police’s Oplan Double Barrel report, 128 were either arrested or killed in the area while 1,218 surrendered.

In the National Capital Region, the MPD has registered the highest number of surrenderers and fatalities in police operations since July 1, the start of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

THE PARADE. 'Surrenderers' line up to board a waiting vehicle that will take them to the police station.

JAMPACKED. More than 20 individuals ride a jeepney meant for only 14 passengers.

WAIVER. Inside the station, 'surrenderers' sign a form pledging to stop using drugs and to reform.

Benjie, a glass installer and contractor from Cebu, was on the phone talking to his mother when the police asked him to come with them.

“Dapat ipa-drug test na lang kami para magkaalaman na,” he said. “Kapag nalagay ka sa watch list tapos wala ka naman kinalaman sa droga, mahirap na. Mahirap lumabas para maghanap ng trabaho at ang masaklap, kung mapagbibintangan ka – alam ‘nyo naman siguro kung ano ang nangyayari ngayon.

(They should just subject us to a drug test so we’ll find out who’s really using drugs or not. When you’re placed on a watch list but you’re actually not involved in drugs, it’s difficult. It’ll be hard to look for a job, and what’s worse, if you’re accused of being a drug pusher or user – well, you know what’s happening in the country right now.)

IN BATCHES. Due to its small size, the police station is unable to accommodate the large number of 'surrenderers.'

FOR INQUEST. The 10 arrested drug suspects under investigation inside the SAID-SOTU office.

Police chief Ulsano, quoting national hero Jose Rizal, said that the Philippines’ future depends on the youth.

“But what will happen to our children’s future if drugs continue to proliferate?” he said. (READ: EXPLAINER: How serious is the PH drug problem? Here’s the data)

WAITING. The Alvarado family outside the police station.

Shortly before midnight, after filling up a form, the 57 who “surrendered” join their family members waiting outside the police station and walk home.

Bert and Liselle and their two children will finally have dinner. –

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