When a government commissions a killing spree on drug dealers, you almost have to imagine it’s against drug cartel or gangs. But the reality in the Philippines is that it’s the everyday impoverished who are having to toss up between risking their lives and feeding their families.
I was in one of the Philippines’ Metro Manila regions recently, a tourist hotspot. I was engaging with one of several street vendors who had tried to sell me female Viagra that day. I wasn’t in the market for such a product but enjoyed bantering with the locals so probably gave the impression I was. After a lot of back and forth on why I may or may not need to artificially increase my libido, Marco the street vendor gave up on trying to sell me Viagra and made it very clear that he could supply me with anything.
He was trying to sell me narcotics in plain daylight, in a country making global headlines for its President’s brutal war on drug dealers and users.
I asked him to come and have lunch with me instead.
He took me to a Filipino eatery for the local prices and I bought him a couple of beers and a plate of chicken. I took out my notebook and pen and looked into his swollen pupils which hadn’t seen sleep for two days. Shabu, the local name for crystal meth, is the most widely used illicit drug in the Philippines. Not least because its ability to keep a person awake allows for longer working hours to earn more money.
Marco was a 47-year-old Muslim man, small in stature with a friendly face. He was animated in conversation, had a good sense of humour and spoke English well. He was a seller of the infamous methamphetamine and quite clearly a user of it too, but I asked the question anyway.
Read the full interview published on Vice