Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte completes six months in charge on Friday, with the rising death toll from his war on drugs showing no sign of easing.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-narcotics drive since he took power, about a third in police operations with the rest still being investigated. Many are believed to be vigilante murders, which Duterte has refused to condemn.
The former crime-busting mayor of the southern city of Davao had said that the war on drugs would be over within six months but has since pushed back the deadline. Last month he said that he will continue “until the last pusher drops dead”.
His hardline measures have been criticised by many, including the US and the UN, but Duterte retains a ‘very good’ opinion poll rating at home, the Philippine Social Weather Stations survey group said this month.
On the streets of Manila, residents from a variety of professions gave their thoughts.
Felicidad Magdayao, 59, owner of a fast-food restaurant.
“Our business has really suffered. People are afraid to go out. At dawn we only have few customers. At least, there are fewer drug addicts and drug pushers.”
Ronaldo David, 49, police officer.
“My load in filing cases in the office has been reduced. I am now more focused on educating people and in prevention.”
Cristine Angelie Garcia, 24, call centre agent.
“Maybe there is another way where people do not need to die,” she said, adding she felt safer walking the streets at night.
“I’m on Duterte’s side. Maybe he’s just misunderstood because he grew up on the streets.”
Rosalina Perez, 41, from Tondo district. Perez is the sister of Benjamin Visda, who was killed by police during a drug investigation.
“At first, we liked what he (Duterte) was doing. But as it went on I started to question what he was doing. Everyone who wants to change are just killed. They are not even given a chance to explain themselves to the authorities.”
Weng Ruda, 36, mother of three. Lives in a slum at the foot of Payatas dumpsite in Quezon city.
“I like that he is very tough. There are no children loitering around now. They also avoid picking up bad habits.”
Zainab Omar, 41, teacher, from Taguig city.
“The children are safer now. Parents used to accompany their children to school before Duterte sat as president. Now they let their children go to school by themselves.”
Graciano De Leon, 19, parking attendant, from Paranaque city.
“What he is doing is good. He gave jobs to many people and many are happy with him. I just don’t know about the families (of those killed) if that is good for them.”
Marianito Navarra, 54, village watchman in Pasay city.
“I pity the families of those who are killed, especially those who really had nothing to do with crime. There have been a lot of people who were killed that weren’t really involved with drugs. They should just arrest them.”
Bobby Dela Cruz, 54, Catholic priest and former drug addict.
“These people (drug addicts) are fighting for their lives. They need our help. We must help these people.”
Jose Cecilia Jr., 51, owns a trucking company, from Santa Rosa town in Laguna province.
“I give one hundred percent for Duterte. He’s the only president who is fighting the drug lords and other syndicates in our country.”
Kimee Enciso, 21, student, from Quezon city.
“When it comes to him being too tough, I think it is just right. He’s our leader and he’s only doing it for our sake.”
Orly Fernandez, 64, operational manager at Eusebio Funeral Services in Navotas city. Fernandez lives in the funeral parlour.
“Before maybe we pick up one body per day, now we get around two or three bodies a day.”
Sandro Gabriel Jr, 34, grave digger at Pasay Public Cemetery.
“A lot of people who have been shot have been buried here. More than 40 people have recently been buried here,” he said.
“…I am not saying Duterte should keep killing people. But for us, we will keep working as long as there is work.”