Philippine Fishermen: Police Ordered Us To Get Rid Of Drug War Victims

By Bryan Le 07/31/17

To keep up with the rising body count of Duterte’s drug war, police have conscripted fishermen to dump the corpses in Manila Bay as “trash.”

A fisherman rows his wooden raft off the coast of the Philippines.
At least one corpse has been confirmed by press to be a drug suspect.

It seems Duterte’s bloody war on drugs is killing drug suspects faster than authorities can bury them. Philippine fisherman told Al Jazeera that police have ordered them to dump the bodies, which they call “trash,” in Manila Bay.

Manuel, a local fisherman, claims to have personally dumped 20 bodies. "Police are the ones coming to my house ordering me to take out trash," he told Al Jazeera. "We usually throw them out in Manila Bay. Sometimes we put weights on it, so it doesn't float up."

Yaara Bou Melhem, an Al Jazeera reporter in Manila, personally verified one of the corpses as being the body of a suspected drug dealer. "Once, I saw the body of a friend," Manuel said. "I'm scared and wonder if I could be next."

The driving force behind the brutal Philippine war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte, has never been shy about advocating the killing of drug addicts and dealers. “You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out,” he said during his presidential campaign last year. “Because I'd kill you. I'll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Police report having killed 3,200 individuals, but human rights organizations put the death toll at more than 7,000. The discrepancy may be due to vigilante killings of drug criminals, which Duterte has personally endorsed.

Addressing the accusations of corpse dumping, a Philippine police spokesperson told Al Jazeera they would investigate the claims. "If it's true, we will work on it," said police spokesperson Diornardo Carlos. "We will not allow any member of the organisation, the police organisation, to continue these wrongdoings.”

Philippine authorities made similar condemnations against the vigilante killings of criminals—and had those condemnations similarly undercut by statements from Duterte himself.

"Vigilante or extrajudicial killings are unlawful and are therefore not sanctioned. The government condemns such practice," said a government spokesperson. "These are not to be confused with the government's war on illegal drugs, which is an urgent and critical domestic matter."

The statement stands in stark contrast to words from Duterte himself. "Shoot [them] and I'll give you a medal,” he said last June upon taking office.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter