This is where they do not die
The war, as we have discovered, is fought in places where privilege does not extend

This is where they do not die

style=”color: #e0dedc !important; margin: -15px 0 40px 0;>The war, as we have discovered, is fought in the places where privilege does not extend.

Rappler maps the crime scenes from Quezon City records between July 1, 2016 and January 30, 2017, profiling the dead killed during the first 7 months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.



veryone knows the story. There is the body, there is the bullet, there is the man who will alternately be called addict or suspect or junkie or pusher or dealer, allegedly or otherwise, depending on who tells the story.

“We will not stop,” said President Rodrigo Duterte, “until the last drug lord… and the last pusher have surrendered, or are put either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.”

This is Quezon City, millions strong, sprawling over more than 16,000 hectares, the largest in Metro Manila and the most populated of the country’s highly urbanized cities. Two former presidents still live inside its borders, along with a handful of senators and the grandchildren of the late Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon, in whose imagination bloomed the vision of a graceful capitol in the city that now carries his name. It is also the city where at least 511 people were recorded killed during the first seven months of Duterte’s drug war. 

Project Double Barrel went into effect in July of 2016. The leadership went to the police, who were promised protection by the President as long as “you do your duty.” The daily broadcasts ran footage of wailing mothers, while corpse after corpse filled the feeds of night shift reporters until operations were suspended in January.  

Rappler reviewed police spot reports for 368 incidents of deaths under investigation and fatal armed encounters in Quezon City between July 1, 2016 and January 30, 2017, the first seven months of Project Double Barrel and Barrel Alpha. The reports were accessed at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit at the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) headquarters after a request for all reports filed between June 2016 and January 2017.

A request for later reports within the time frame of the drug war’s second onslaught was initially approved by the QCPD. It was subsequently denied by higher authorities, who cited “ongoing investigations.”

A spot report is filed in the immediate aftermath of an incident, and includes the date, time, and type – whether it was a stabbing or a shooting, whether it was a police operation or a corpse left by the side of the road, whether the dead were drug suspects or unidentified. It includes the facts of the case as determined by the police. It lists the police personnel present, whether responding or involved, as well as possible perpetrators. When available, the addresses and names of suspects killed are included, as well as the place of incident.

Quezon City’s dead fall into two categories. The first are the deaths under investigation. The perpetrators are listed as largely unknown. Some of the bodies were found in street corners and alongside highways, garroted with galvanized wire or stabbed in the chest, faces sometimes wrapped in duct tape, with crystal meth in their pockets and signs calling them addicts or dealers. Others were shot point-blank by riding-in-tandem assailants, or murdered by masked men as they watched television inside shanties.

Although it cannot be categorically said that the victims were involved in drugs, some were on drug watch lists, while a number of others had already surrendered to local authorities. 

Rappler identified 216 deaths under investigation in a review of QCPD spot reports. Joy Belmonte, the Vice Mayor of Quezon City, under whose office the anti-illegal drug campaign falls, admitted she was alarmed by the sudden rise of killings. She cautioned against seeing the trend “from a black and white perspective.”

Some of the dead, she said, were probably uninvolved in drugs but were targeted because “of the opportunity” to kill with impunity. Others were possible informants murdered by corrupt policemen she called “ninja cops.” Still others were victims of vigilante killings. 

“I think it’s a really complex problem,” Belmonte told Rappler. “Some of [the killings] were related to drugs. Some of them weren’t. Some of the others, I think, are just an excuse, and it’s really hard. So I don’t want to be judgmental and say that these are just because of the President.”

The second category involves fatalities from police encounters. Although suspects are sometimes killed during carnapping incidents or in the aftermath of robberies, the QCPD says every dead man found with drugs on their person is counted as a drug suspect.

QCPD Director Guillermo Eleazar gave Rappler a total of 295 illegal drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations during the first seven months of the drug war. All of them were reportedly killed after drawing guns on officers of the law. 

A comparison of Rappler’s numbers from spot reports with those of the QCPD show that Rappler’s spot reports are by no means complete, with the QCPD declaring a higher number of police kills.  

The QCPD said no member of their police operating teams was killed in action during any of the fatal encounters. Every one of the anti-illegal drug encounters ended with a dead suspect, regardless of the fact the suspects were reported to have drawn their guns first.

“If they pull out a gun, kill them,” the President said. “If they don’t, kill them still, son of a whore, so it’s over, lest you lose the gun. I’ll take care of you.”

Map of all killings in Quezon City



The casualties

This is not a story about where people die. It is, instead, about where they do not.

This is Quezon City, a metropolis of teetering shanties and gated communities, where the word “privilege” is much beloved by real estate agents and condominium developers. 68 Roces, in Diliman, is advertised as “a new address of privilege and security.” Golfhill Gardens in Capitol Hills Village is a “prime real estate offering for the privileged few.” The developers behind the two-hectare, five-tower compound of One Balete defines luxury as “the power and the privilege to own the space they deserve and more.” 

That same promise of privilege is fulfilled in the pattern of killings across the first seven months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs. 

There were no shooting incidents reported along the tree-lined lanes opening into Horseshoe Village, or in Ayala Hillside Estates, where celebrities with Gucci shoe collections live. The walled compound of Talayan Village remained safe from masked gunmen. The dead were found outside, in the slum communities of Masambong and Tatalon. 

Of the 495 total fatalities Rappler reviewed, more than a third were killed under the area of responsibility of a single police station, Batasan Police Station 6, whose territory covers the slums of Bagong Silangan (17 dead), Old Balara (24 dead), Holy Spirit (28 dead), Batasan Hills (32 dead), Commonwealth (46 dead), and Payatas (68 dead). There may have been unidentified corpses dumped along the highway as it loops past South Triangle and Philam Village, or the alleged Makati dealer found dead with a placard along Temple Drive in Ugong Norte, but the killings remained largely limited to pockets of slums across Quezon City. 

The police killings Rappler reviewed also followed the same pattern. None of the encounters occurred along Mother Ignacia Avenue, where the red and white tower of broadcast giant ABS-CBN spears into the sky. No suspects fought back against police in the Eastwood condominiums with their smiling security. There were no gunfights in the gated communities of White Plains (average price P65 million) or Corinthian Gardens (P134 million) or Loyola Heights (P34 million). The wide roads of La Vista where former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lives is free of bullet-riddled corpses, so is Times Street, where another former president, Benigno Aquino III, is now allowed to hunker over video games.

Deviations are rare: the two suspects killed inside a one-story rented flat in Sangandaan, Project 8, the construction worker who led police on a chase down West 6th Street in West Triangle. The police killed no one by the red brick buildings of the Jesuit colleges along Katipunan Avenue, or in the coffee shops where the white-sneakered crowd sit with cappuccinos arguing philosophy and the state of the nation. Only the campus of the University of the Philippines among the school zones was marked by yellow crime scene tape, with seven drug suspects killed by police in the heavily-forested public grounds.

Don Antonio Heights Subdivision has its own secret – a narrow alley just past the townhouses and wide lanes, where police shot a man named Henry Cortez, who once worked repairing dentures inside a closet-sized wooden shack. Culiat Village saw two drug suspects on motorcycles shot down after they were flagged by a patrol, while New Era Village remained quiet across the border. New Era, once part of Culiat, is the home of the Central Temple of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). No police encounters were recorded under the church steeple.

The people killed by the police belong to other places. They were killed inside the concrete shoeboxes crammed with extended families in the villages of Gulod, Sauyo, and Nagkaisang Nayon in Novaliches. They died in vacant lots in Ramon Magsaysay, in street corners at 138 Compound in E. Rodriguez, inside the second floor bedrooms of skinny shanties in Bagbag, an area where police killed 13. They were shot in Santa Lucia and Santa Monica and Santo Cristo and inside Pinyahan Village, where the slums huddle past the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

They died, mostly, in Payatas Village, with its massive landfill and tin-roofed houses, where the police death count for the first seven months was highest in the city. Payatas is where it is possible for a policeman to walk into a house and demand a drug test from a pregnant woman, and where the survivors of killings run to the church begging for sanctuary. Payatas is also where a vendor named Efren Morillo survived a gunshot by jumping into a ravine, and where a 12-year-old named Christine will point to a blue couch and say it is where she watched her father die.

L-R(1) Christine at her home in Payatas Village. (2) A portrait of Constantino de Juan hanging on the wall of his home. (3) Six of Constantino de Juan’s children, and his mother Remy, 85, beside the single-seater couch where de Juan was shot on December 6, 2016.


The witness

There are seven De Juan children who live with their grandmother in a cinderblock house in Payatas Village. Once, Mama and Papa lived there too, back when there were only six of them and Rjhay was still inside his Mama’s belly. The police came looking for Papa in August, only he wasn’t home and they found Mama instead. They put a plastic sachet full of white powder on the table. The police said it was drugs, and they told Mama they wanted her picture. She was many months pregnant and very afraid, so they took her photo and escorted her up the hill to a big van all the way to jail.

Papa walked into the front door late that night. The children told him Mama was gone. Everyone they knew told Papa to run, to go away, never come back, because the police were on the hunt and would kill him if they could.   

So he left, hugged all the children and then disappeared. His wife had her baby in the hospital and then was brought back to jail. It was the grandmother who stayed with the children. She told them their Papa would come back someday. 

One morning in December, months after he left, just after one of their birthdays, Christine woke up to see Papa at the stove, boiling someone’s old pasta with a cup of coffee in his hand. There was no money for sauce, so he sprinkled leftover cheese powder over the noodles and sent Grandma out for ketchup. Papa said he missed them all. He fed the little ones by hand. He gave Christine half his coffee. He said Papa had to leave soon, but that he loved them all. He told Cejhay, all of four years old and the eldest boy, to always take care of his sisters.

A man ran past the house. When they looked up, there were three guns at the window, the barrels shiny in the sunlight. The policemen outside, dressed in black, said don’t move, don’t run, get down. The children dropped to the ground. There was banging on the door, and when it burst open five of the policemen ran into the house. They pushed Christine’s Papa into an armchair, face first, knees on the cushion, a cop’s large hand pressing down on his neck.

Papa was clutching his ID. He said he was clean. He had taken a drug test, in Tondo where he worked, and said he would show them proof.

Please, he was saying, please, arrest me instead. My children are so small.

Christine jumped up and wrapped her arms around her father. The police told the children to get out. Christine was left inside, Christine and her Papa who had gone quiet on the sofa. One of the policemen grabbed her by the arm and threw her against the wall. Get out, he said.

Only Christine didn’t get out, at least not fast enough, so she was there when the policeman shot her Papa, through the back of the head, through the chest, shot him so close that the next day Cejhay stuck his finger through the hole and dug out the bullet from the back of the sofa.  

Christine is uncertain how many gunshots she heard. They all came at once, from the house and just outside, from the junkshop where two other men were killed on the morning of December 6, 2016.

Map of Fatal Police Operations


The unidentified

“You know, I’ve been in operations,” said Quezon City Police District Director Guillermo Eleazar. “An encounter isn’t like what you see in the movies, where you get to duck the bullet. It’s easy when you’re watching a movie. But when you’re there, you make one mistake, you think maybe you’ll wait until you get shot at before you retaliate – it could mean your life.” 

On a police drug watch list provided by Payatas Village, Christine’s father is listed as Constantino de Juan, alias Juan, entry number 3,382. A note beside his name classifies him a drug pusher. Another column, with the header “activity,” marks him “killed.”

In the spot report filed by police, Juan was one of three men killed by the Station Anti Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group of QCPD Police Station 6 “on or about 9:05 am” at “two (2) shanty house” in Payatas Village. 

Investigators classified the encounter with Constantino de Juan as a buy-bust operation. The particulars of a bust may vary, but the narrative is similar across the metropolis. A “poseur-buyer,” usually an armed undercover cop, sets up a meet to buy drugs from a suspected dealer. If the sale is “consummated,” police execute a warrantless arrest. Reports of fatal buy-bust operations are almost always the same, with the suspect drawing a gun after “sensing the presence of police personnel.” 


In the case of Juan, 37, married, native of Sapang Palay, Bulacan, police were “officially dispatched armed with Pre-Operational Report” to conduct simultaneous buy-busts against suspects “who are neighbors at the squatter’s area.” Police said poseur-buyers were able to successfully buy shabu, or crystal meth. Juan and two others “suddenly pulled out their respective handguns and open defiance with the law opened fired directly towards the operatives.”

The police said they had “no other option but to retaliate.” The three suspects were rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center and were pronounced dead on arrival. 

In a gunfight among three armed scavengers, 30 operatives and a police chief inspector, it was the three scavengers who died of multiple gunshot wounds. None of the police were reported to have sustained injuries.

The second suspect is tagged as Alias Buhay, “30-35 years old, medium built,” and was listed on the drug watchlist as a dealer. Christine’s family describes him as a scrap scavenger who lived and worked at the junkshop Juan had built at the back of the house. In the story Christine tells, his name was Bugoy, not Buhay. He was a friend to the children, and it was his shouting that they all heard on the morning Constantino de Juan was killed. They said he was beaten and tortured before he was shot.

Police drug buy-busts are sting operations. They are not sudden encounters with drug suspects. They require what Eleazar calls “case build-up.” There is police surveillance, intelligence reports, and the approval of higher authorities, including the PDEA, for the execution of the operation. The assumption is that the suspects are known, their activities monitored. 

It is why there is some strangeness in the fact that in spite of the preparation and planning and layers of supervision, 79 drug suspects killed in buy-bust operations were left either unidentified or only with aliases in spot reports. They comprise more than half of the 184 buy-bust fatalities that Rappler reviewed.

That number includes the third man to die with Constantino de Juan. He is described as “unidentified male person, between 30-35 years old, medium built.”

His name is Rannie Dagani, father of three, common-law husband to Aileen Nati, who heard Rannie was dead in the early afternoon of December 6. 


Aileen Nati, with one of her three children in her home in Payatas Village, Quezon City.



The aftermath

It is expectation that separates the very poor from the reasonably privileged in Quezon City. There are places in the city where a person can expect to live and die without ever having seen a bullet, or what a bullet does to a body when fired at close range. 

Out in the gated communities, death by disease or misadventure ends in a reservation at any of the many funeral parlors along Araneta Avenue, where the corpse is enclosed in a white coffin with satin finish and surrounded by seven-foot flower arrangements.

It is expected that old friends and colleagues will descend on the wooden pews, to comfort the family and watch cheery slideshows of the deceased who will be shown, inevitably, wearing trunks and sunglasses at some long forgotten beach. It is expected that the funeral will be scheduled within the appropriate five or six days or seven days. It is expected that there will be tears and laughter at the final eulogy, just before relatives sprinkle holy water on the coffin lid.

None of those expectations were met in the weeks after Rannie Dagani wandered into his friend’s junkshop. His wife Aileen chased down his bullet-riddled body to a local morgue, where she signed a promissory note for the release of her husband’s corpse.

Aileen did not have a problem with the drug war. She saw nothing sinister in the attempt to end drug addiction. Drugs were bad, and she would know, just as she knew her husband never really stopped snorting meth since he was a teenager and she was pregnant with their first child. She loved him in fifth grade, she loved him through three children, she loved him in spite of poverty and the fact he never listened when she told him the drugs needed to go away.

They broke up and reconciled, again and again, until he fell off the wagon so hard she decided to take the children and move to her family’s home. She knew he would come back. He always came back, until the day he didn’t. 

In the week Rannie Dagani was shot, five other people were killed inside Payatas, four of them in police operations. It meant that all the tents that could be had were stretched over a variety of coffins in a variety of places across the village. It meant that the coffin Aileen couldn’t fit along her own alley stood in the rain, where she and her eldest son took 12-hour-shifts holding an umbrella over Rannie’s face. It meant, mostly, that Aileen spent 17 nights in the dark talking to the shattered body of her dead husband through the wet glass of a coffin lid.

Nobody outside of Aileen’s own siblings came to mourn the short life and sudden death of a 30-year-old itinerant addict. The neighbors were afraid to be seen at his wake. It took a priest, wandering out of his church before midnight mass, to notice the stench rising from the dead man. He raised the money for the funeral. Rannie Dagani was buried the day before Christmas Eve.

“By then, I didn’t want to bury him anymore,” said Aileen. “I wanted to keep him there beside me. I got used to him. But I couldn’t keep him, because then everything would smell of the dead.” 



Alias Jesus Judas, llisted by police as about 30-35 years old, was killed on or about 4:00 am on October 8, 2016 at a police buy-bust operation at Pat Senador Street corner West Riverside in Del Monte Village, Quezon City. 



The enemies of the state

“Kill them all,” Rodrigo Duterte said in March of 2016, two 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.”

This is the profile of the enemy of the state, based on a review of drug suspects killed by police. 

He is likely male, between 20 and 40 years old. If he lives in the city, he likely has an address in the shantytowns of Payatas, Sauyo, Culiat, Bagbag, or in any of the many pockets of poverty across the metropolis. 

He is likely jobless, as were 52 suspects, or works in the informal economy, possibly as a construction worker, a tricycle driver, a scavenger, a neighborhood watchman, or, for three suspects, police officers who had evaded the department’s “internal cleansing.”

For 109 drug suspects, the enemy of the state is nameless, defined only by his tattoos, possibly an alias, and his place of death. 

Constantino de Juan fit the profile. Rannie Dagani fit the profile. The seven men killed five minutes past midnight on September 16 inside a shanty at No. 10 Samaba Road all fit the profile. One was jobless, one was a construction worker, the other five were reported unidentified. They were all between the ages of 25 and 40.

The five killed in a drug sting on the birthday eve of one Cherwen Polo, 38, tricycle driver and resident of Lower Sampaguita Extension in Payatas B, also fit the profile. The police said all five “sensed the presence of police operatives” and drew their weapons. The dead were later counted as drug pushers in the police watch list, in spite of the fact that four of them were unidentified in the first spot report.

One of them was 17 years old. His name was Darwin Hamoy, and he was shot once through the chest and thrice on the leg. His relatives say he was there to deliver a pack of cigarettes.

More than half of Filipinos doubt police narratives of suspects who were killed after drawing guns on the police, according to a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations in June of 2017. Sixty percent agreed that only poor drug suspects were killed. 

There is a reason, said QC Police Director Eleazar, why the drug war has been called a war against the poor. Drugs thrive in poverty – “95 percent or 98 percent” of drug suspects are poor.

“Go to the depressed areas, basically we’ll see the drugs,” Eleazar said. “Go to the depressed areas and they’re there. That’s where the drug pushers are. That’s where the meth markets are. So that’s where we conduct our operations.”

Although he said there may be drug suspects in gated communities, “we don’t have information.”

“We know most of them are in the depressed areas,” Eleazar said. “In the first place, those aren’t gated subdivisions. You know exactly what they’re doing. By the information alone, you know they’re involved in drugs so access to them is easier.”

The difference, he said, between a privileged user and an impoverished one is largely behavioral. The users living in a gated community will “use drugs by themselves,” will not leave the house and “will not get rowdy.” Those who do get rowdy are caught by police. 

The President himself does not deny that the poor are targeted.

“Of course it will be the poor people,” he said, “because the poor are ignorant and more likely to be hit.”

The wealthy take drugs on private planes and are difficult to track. Those in exclusive villages like Forbes Park use cocaine instead, a drug the President said “is not as destructive to the mind as meth.”

“Those really poor, they’re the problem,” President Duterte said. “We have to destroy the apparatus. It needs people killed. There’s nothing we can do… that’s just how it is. You cannot stop the movement of drugs in the entire country if you don’t deal with all of them.”

There are many and varied ways the President describes the people he would prefer killed. They are addicts involved in “horrendous and despicable crimes of rape, murder.” They are the users on meth whose shrunken brains make rehabilitation “no longer viable.” 

They are the people the President has given the public the license to kill – “If someone’s child is an addict, be the one to kill them, so it won’t be so painful [to their parents].” They are the three million, or four million, or five million who kill their mothers and beat their fathers and are less useful than slaves from “the markets of Africa and the slave markets of the Middle East.”

When the United Nations condemned the slew of killings, the President responded to possible charges of crimes against humanity in a speech to the military – “In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you: are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?”


L-R(1) A student at Commonwealth Village. (2) A young scavenger at a trash heap in Payatas Village.



The gates

Early in the drug war, newly-elected city councilor Hero Bautista, brother to the Quezon City mayor, was reported to have tested positive for drugs after city officials underwent testing. He called himself “a victim of the drug menace” during a privilege speech before the city council. He promised to go on a “personal journey.” His family said he checked himself into an undisclosed private treatment center.

Ten months after his confession, his family told media that his rehabilitation had progressed, and that the councilor was allowed to leave the facility every Monday to attend council meetings. It was later announced that Bautista was looking forward to his return to full duty. 

In September of 2016, the month the Quezon City police racked up at least 48 kills of alleged drug suspects, Metro Manila Police Director Oscar Albayalde ordered city chiefs to “step up” the implementation of Project Double Barrel and Operation Tokhang in exclusive villages, offices, and condominium units across the metropolis. 

Tokhang, a portmanteau of Visayan words “toktok” and “hangyo” – knock and plead – sent the Philippine National Police to the homes of thousands recorded in their watchlists to convince drug suspects to surrender. Although the government claims its goal was to encourage rehabilitation, multiple cases have surfaced of suspects killed during police visits, including 15 in Quezon City alone. 

Tokhang was never applied to the gated communities of Quezon City. Instead, QCPD Director Eleazar implemented what he calls “Operation Taphang.” If Tokhang meant knock and plead, Taphang meant to gather and plead.

“What we do is we go to the villages, we talk to the homeowners, and we scheduled town hall meetings and gathered them,” Eleazar told Rappler.  “We didn’t go to their houses. We went to their clubhouses or whatsoever and we presented our program.” 

The QCPD first spoke to the Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners, then met, district by district, with representatives of the city’s hundreds of gated communities. It was in those meetings that Eleazar asked to visit individual subdivisions “by appointment or invitation.” Representatives from police stations – occasionally with Eleazar himself – attended those town hall meetings, for as long as an invitation could be secured.

“All we wanted was to establish a direct line of communication with them,” Eleazar said, “so that if they know people using drugs, maybe we can help, they can contact us, something like that.”

There were still tensions. Exclusive villages protested the possibility of posting “drug-free” stickers at their gates. Protocols were negotiated stipulating “certain agreements and conditions.” Teachers Village East distributed a circular informing residents that failure to either attend or send “a qualified family representative” to the town hall meeting would mean that “the police team of Operation Tokhang together with Barangay representatives will come knocking at your door.”

That letter prompted complaints, in spite of Eleazar’s explanation that the template came from the homeowners’ associations themselves. 

The circular was eventually revised.



Quezon City Police District Director Guillermo Eleazar in his office at Camp Karingal, Quezon City on November 17, 2017. 



The exception

Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare, the Epifanio de Los Santos highway (EDSA), cuts through Quezon City and rushes past four train stations, the military headquarters, and the national police command in Camp Crame. In October 2016, a murder occurred inside the walls of the police headquarters. The dead man was wealthy, a foreigner, and was not among the thousands on the watch list distributed by police.

He was, by the standards of the government, human.

His name is Jee Ick Joo, a South Korean businessman dragged out of his house in Angeles City during a sham buy-bust then strangled by an anti-narcotics cop inside Camp Crame. The police demanded millions in ransom from his wife, after his corpse was cremated and flushed down a toilet by a funeral parlor employee for the price of P30,000 and a set of Jee Ick Joo’s own golf clubs. 

The news broke in January of 2017. The Senate held a hearing. The South Korean foreign minister expressed “grave shock.” The government apologized. The President called the murder an “embarrassment,” removed the police from anti-drug operations, and accused them of being “corrupt to the core.” 

On January 30, the chief of the Philippine National Police stood before the media and said the police would “focus our efforts towards internal cleansing.” Reporters on shift recorded no drug-related deaths that night for the first time in months – with the exception of the Christmas weekend.

Even after the suspension, the QCPD said the war had brought some level of success: 1,711 illegal drug personalities arrested in 7 months and a massive reduction in all eight index crimes, with the exception of murder.

Eleazar is well aware there is criticism against the war his men waged in the name of President Duterte. He has no problem with calls to address possible human rights abuses – “They’re advocates, we cannot blame them” – and understands there is always room for improvement.

He did not, however, hesitate to point out the dangers of criticism. Those who criticize are “unknowingly in doing so protecting the drug syndicates.” The police’s “adjustments” to criticism risks the fight against “the real danger,” the drug scourge “that more than any other thing is our real problem.” 

“The rich don’t realize that,” he explained, “because they are not affected by this. But the majority of our people are poor, and they will sink deeper and deeper into the problem. Our rich will only be affected because of the crime rate, because eventually they’ll be affected once some relative becomes a victim of crimes committed by those involved in drugs.”

Eleazar believes the majority of those who condemn the drug war come from the privileged classes. He respects their right to speak, but said “they should do their part.” 

“They call this a war against the poor, so they should go down to the poor. Those rich people, they should go to them, help them so we have a smaller drug problem.”


L-R(1) The home Constantino de Juan built. (2) Aileen Nati and her three children in their home in Payatas Village (3) Christine by the window through which she says police first aimed their guns. 



The highest accomplishment

The war may have ended with a toilet lever, but it resumed with a vengeance a little more than a month later in March. It was suspended again in October. On November 22, the President announced he intended to return the police to the frontlines.

“Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely it will increase the [drug] activity,” he told soldiers in a speech.

In the 15 months since the launch of Project Double Barrel, Eleazar said there was a total of 3,500 anti-drug operations and 7,700 arrests of drug suspects. He said fatal encounters were at six percent.

“So what I’m trying to say is that, six percent… [it] really depends on the situation,” said Eleazar. “If you look at it, it’s a small percentage of the many operations we resulted in. Before, there were few operations, so few possibilities of encounter. If we use ratio and proportion, we can say we fit inside of that assumption.” 

That percentage does not account for the fact many of the incidents involved multiple deaths, with some encounters ending with as many as seven fatalities. Eleazar reiterated that the point “is not about proportion.”

“It’s what really happened on the field,” he said. “That’s where you have your presumption of regularity. Otherwise, if there is a presumption of regularity, and reasons and evidence, the police must face the consequence of their action. Everyone has the right to complain.”

In the meantime, Christine’s grandmother would move into the cinderblock house in Payatas Village, to look after Tricia and Christine and Joan and Remy and Kyla and Rjhay and Cejhay, the entire family living under P150 a day. Aileen, whose husband Rannie was killed with Constantino de Juan, would raise her three children with the expectation she can die anytime – “because really, anyone can.”

The children would ask for their fathers, and there would be talk of heaven and bad men. There would be nightmares, and weeping on birthdays, and neighbors who would call out laughing at the daughters of Constantino de Juan. “They told us Papa was dead because he was an addict.” 

It was a long time after her father died when Christine spoke again. Her first words were apologies. She said sorry to her grandmother, and sorry to her siblings. She said sorry because she let go of Papa on the morning he was killed. She was afraid, she said. Had she held on harder, had she hugged him tighter, Papa would be alive.

On August 18, 2017, at the 116th Police Service Anniversary in Camp Crame, QCPD Batasan Police Station-6, within whose area of responsibility Rappler counted the most homicides in seven months, was recognized for its performance during the first iteration of the drug war. It is the same station whose personnel were responsible for the deaths of Constantino de Juan and at least 85 others.

QCPD PS-6, among all numbered police stations in the National Capital Region, was recognized for its “highest accomplishment in Project Double Barrel/Barrel Alpha.” –


Editor’s note: Unless stated otherwise, all data referring to number of kills resulted from a review of all spot reports of deaths under investigation and armed encounters between July 2016 and January 2017. The QCPD allowed Rappler access to them. All quotations have been translated into English. 

{module 3765}



Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.