November 14th, 2016
“Welcome to Hell,” is chalked on some steps inside Quezon City Jail, Manila. There, prisoners sleep in hallways and stairwells and have one toilet per 150 men. In yet another human-rights violation caused by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous drug war, the facility, built to house 800 people, currently holds at least 3,400 (or 3,800, according to some reports). “Inmates get sick because they can’t sleep comfortably at night,” says one of the guards.
This Reuters video, produced last month, states that more than 20,000 people have been arrested since Duterte came to power, and 2,300 murdered in extra-judicial killings. Some current estimates of those killings exceed 4,000. The ranting Duterte has threatened “20,000 or 30,000 more deaths,” and although more conciliatory noises have also emerged from his administration in the face of growing international pressure, even the most optimistic scenario would represent far too little, too late.
In these circumstances, some of those incarcerated in the appalling conditions of Quezon City Jail recognize that the fates of many of their fellow drug users are even worse.
“I feel much safer here than outside,” says one prisoner, “because all the people involved in drugs are being killed outside.”