We have a story of a person killed in the Philippines drug war. His death is one of thousands. Police admit to killing more than 5,500 people in the campaign ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte. Police had previously admitted to killing more. And the official number, whatever it should be, does not include extrajudicial killings that human rights groups estimate at 20,000 people. But this is the story of just one man.
NPR’s Julie McCarthy heard the dead man’s story from his mom.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Nanette Castillo hands me a photograph, eerie streetlights illuminating the scene. She’s in the foreground, crumpled beside a dead body. In the background, scores stand mute.
(SOUNDBITE OF STREET AMBIENCE)
MCCARTHY: It was October 3, 2017, and Duterte’s drug war was sweeping through this sprawling Manila slum of Tondo. Witnesses that night told Nanette that four masked men roared up on motorcycles, one stopping next to her son Aldrin, who’d been talking with friends in the street.
NANETTE CASTILLO: (Speaking Tagalog).
MCCARTHY: “His friend said the man pulled out a gun,” Nanette says. “He forced Aldrin to kneel and said, what’s your name? – then shot him.”
The post-mortem report cites multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and body. Nanette says when the police arrived, they stood by and made no attempt to determine whether her son was still alive.
The Duterte administration’s anti-drug operation, now in its third year, has targeted poor small-time peddlers and drug users. Nanette admits that her son, 32 when he was killed, did use drugs. She speaks of him in the present tense.
CASTILLO: (Through interpreter) As a mother, I know when he’s using. We fought over it. But he’s not violent. He doesn’t steal. It’s not reason enough to kill him. If the government really wants to, it can rehabilitate him.