The red markdesktop
For three months in 2017, the Payatas village hall and the police station demanded the profiling and drug testing of residents they believed were drug personalities. Every household that refused was marked red.
The red mark
It's for a census, the police will tell you. It's a survey, a drug test, just a few questions – we hope you understand.
For three months in 2017, the local leaders of Payatas Village, Quezon City, in conjunction with the police, conducted a drug-clearing campaign under the guise of a harmless census. Authorities demanded the profiling and drug testing of specific residents. The results decided guilt or innocence.
Households that refused to cooperate were marked red.
"They made my son piss by the side of the road... why couldn't they do it to him at the village hall?"
“I can tell [a drug dependent] from the eyes. The aura is different.”
t was morning when the police strode into the house. Marlie was still asleep. She woke up to a man in uniform looming over her cot. She was told she had to take a drug test.
Get up, said the cop.
It was for a census, said the police. It was for a survey. It was just a few questions – we hope you understand.
“They just walked in,” Marlie said. “We didn’t invite them into the house.”
There were at least eight police personnel from Quezon City Police Station 6. Not all of them were in uniform.
She didn’t protest much, because they were cops.
The police refused to let Marlie use the toilet. They had to watch her piss, they said, to make sure she didn’t pour water into her urine.
Marlie was led out the front door and into the alley. The men walked a few steps away. The policewomen stayed.
One of them ripped open a slim packet, pulled out a plastic drug test, and handed Marlie what was left of the foil sleeve. They watched as Marlie pulled down her panties, watched as she squatted down into the wet cement with her 5-month-old pregnant belly sticking out from under her shirt, and kept watching as she cupped the mouth of the torn package under her vagina.
When the police took it back, one cop dipped the edges of the drug test into the urine.
Four lines appeared in pink. The cops pronounced Marlie negative.
It didn’t go so well for Marlie’s mother. They said she was positive for marijuana. Marlie grabbed for both tests. Each had the same number of lines.
The cop took the test back and began whipping it in the air, back and forth, the urine dripping over the panels.
The trouble, said Marlie, was Victor. Victor, her ex-boyfriend, father of her daughter, who ran drugs and made Marlie's life all sorts of hell. It was Victor who got her pregnant back when she was nineteen, and it was Victor who beat her and locked her in whenever he was jealous of her friends. It was because of him that the cops walked into the narrow cinderblock house where she lived with her mother without so much as a by-your-leave.
Marlie had no trouble letting them test Victor. They had her permission. She gave the cops directions – go north, she told them, drive as far as you can, all the way to the apartment cemetery where they shoved his coffin into the hole.
Now if the cops manage to extract piss from a corpse, she said, salute to them, the goddamn assholes.
'We conduct intelligence, we ask'
Official data from city hall puts the percentage of informal settlers in Quezon City at 80 percent. Payatas Village, population 200,000, is one of its poorest villages, with at least 60 percent of its residents living under the poverty line.
Payatas is an expanse of creeks and slums and skinny roads that wind around an abandoned landfill that looms high in the northeast. It was that landfill that collapsed in the year 2000, sending a 150-foot mountain of garbage crashing down on a stretch of tin-roofed shanties at eight on a Tuesday morning. At least 125 died, many others remain missing.
On the vacant lots, old foam mattresses are washed, hung to dry, wrapped in plastic and sold for P500 a pop at the Sunday markets. Children play with plastic guns and moth-eaten teddy bears hauled out of trash heaps. It is a village of scavengers and garbage truck drivers and small-time junkyards, where even the patches of forest high up in the hills smell of rot and last month’s dinner.
At the beginning of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, village captains across Quezon City began submitting names of people believed to be involved in drugs. The names came from residents, sector leaders, along with the neighbors who sometimes sent text messages to the village captain. Other names were culled from forms filled out by surrendered users and dealers, and from the pieces of paper left inside anonymous drop boxes.
Every name on the final watch list, Quezon City Police Director Guillermo Eleazar told Rappler, was validated before inclusion. It is only after a drug suspect is “confirmed” – “we conduct intelligence, we ask” – that a name is included on the police watch list.
Eleazar calls the list a reference, with “no evidentiary value.”
“People are afraid of it, but the truth is, it’s really nothing,” Eleazar said. “The court can’t use it. Our operations are based on evidence. Whether you are on the watch list, if we don’t have evidence, we can’t conduct an operation against you.”
By 2017, the Quezon City watch list had swelled into a massive database that now has at least 24,000 names. Those on the list were encouraged to surrender to authorities through Operation Tokhang – a combination of the Visayan terms for "knock" and "plead."
Under Tokhang, policemen would knock on homes of drug suspects to convince them to surrender. Residents were promised rehabilitation, counseling, and possible employment. The operation has been questioned by many critics, and is among issues discussed during the ongoing Supreme Court oral arguments.
Payatas Village Captain Juliet Peña does not believe in the effectiveness of Tokhang operations. She said her village hall listed very few surrenderers.
“I didn’t really understand Tokhang,” she told Rappler. “Under Tokhang, it was really the police who knocked on the doors, and the people were afraid.”
During the first iteration of the drug war, QCPD Police Station-6, the station that covers six villages including Payatas, listed more than a third of the 495 fatalities Rappler reviewed from Quezon City spot reports. At least 37 of them were drug suspects killed during police encounters in Payatas Village alone, 28 from drug buy-busts. The suspects all allegedly drew guns on police.
That a number of individuals listed surrendered on the watch list were also killed in the course of the last year only added to the general terror of Payatas residents.
A comparison of the police watch list with media and police reports shows that surrender does not always mean safety for drug suspects. Arturo Patiño, registered user, surrendered on July 4, 2016. He was killed 13 months later. Noel Royales, registered user, surrendered on March 24, 2017. He was killed five months later. Jonald Roma Campo, registered user, surrendered on November 20, 2016. He was killed seven days later.
Their killers were all reportedly unidentified.
Map of all killings in Quezon City
'We don’t say the purpose is drug clearing'
In July of 2017, at the drug war’s first year anniversary, Captain Peña launched a new program to augment police efforts against drugs.
Peña said the house-to-house visitation was an improvement on previous police campaigns.
Under the new program, village leaders, accompanied by police personnel, knocked on homes to ask questions from heads of households. Drug tests were made available “only for volunteers.” According to staff from the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC), those who test positive are eventually seen by doctors within three months, to determine whether surrenderers need rehabilitation or counseling.
Captain Peña said it was easier to obtain information in the presence of more local leaders, while interventions were clearly laid out for all surrenderers. Questions on the survey included the names of household occupants, ages, gender, and whether they own or rent.
“We don’t say the purpose is drug clearing, so that the sector leaders won’t be afraid [to go],” Peña said. “We survey all the houses. The sector leaders know which houses are drug-affected. So we survey all the houses so that the purpose isn’t so obvious.”
Those on the survey team are assigned clusters designed in the program’s initial stages, where homes are mapped “according to drug affectation.”
“During the mapping,” said Peña, “we already know who the drug dependents are in the houses.”
There were many ways to determine which households were affected by drugs. Sector leaders reported on the activities in their areas. Messages were sent anonymously. Mothers would confess to Captain Peña herself.
“I can tell [a drug dependent] from the eyes,” she said. “The aura is different.”
'Must be approved by the FDA'
Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act requires all testing to be done by government forensic laboratories, or any laboratory accredited and monitored by the Department of Health. The goal is “to safeguard the quality of tests.”
Although Captain Peña was categorical that none of the tests were conducted outside the village hall, her own staff admitted they were occasionally conducted “on-the-spot” during the house-to-house drug clearing operations. Police claimed it was at the request of residents themselves.
At best, tests were run on the crowded desks of the BADAC office on the second floor office of the Payatas Village Hall. At worst, they were conducted on the street and along alleyways.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires the registration of every drug test kit.
Cecilia Matienzo, chief of Licensing and Registration under the FDA’s Center for Device Radiation, Health and Research, said “the actual test must be approved by the FDA.”
“In order to determine if the drug test kit is FDA approved,” she said, “in the label you can see the product registration number which is in the form of either RR-XXXX or IVDR-XXXX.”
Samples of the test kit from Payatas do not include FDA registration numbers.
Captain Peña told her constituents that the drug tests are “the real proof people are using drugs.” The tests, she said, can prove drug use “of up to two years.”
Experts Rappler consulted say test results for methamphetamine, including shabu, are generally positive until three days after last use. THC, or marijuana, also has a clearance rate of three days for occasional users, possibly a month for very heavy users.
The FDA told Rappler that although rates can vary significantly depending on use and metabolism, there is no way to test for meth years after last use.
The Payatas drug test is an on-site screening immunoassay, a biochemical test paid for out of the village budget. Captain Peña said she called other village chiefs, asked which tests they used, and acquired them for her village. There was some bidding involved. She does not remember the details.
The test is produced by Abon Biopharm Company Limited based in Hangzou, China and distributed by X-Ray Med Enterprises along Vicente Cruz Street in Manila.
Printing on the back claims it is a “Multi-Drug One Step Screen Test Panel (Urine)” for MET or THC.
According to Dr Lewis Nelson, Director of Medical Toxicology of the Rutgers University Medical School, the tests are “fairly straightforward,” but reading them is not as simple as it may appear. Results “can be misleadingly positive.”
The concern, said Nelson, is not the test’s ability to detect meth. “It’s whether the test finds other substances and misidentifies them as meth,” he told Rappler. “This would lead one to being falsely accused, and advanced lab testing should be done to identify if the drug found was methamphetamine or another cross reacting substance, of which there are many.”
Among them, he said, are antidepressants and decongestants.
Captain Peña said there is no second test for individuals who test positive. Staff at the village hall said tests were administered by the police, because they “are more experienced.”
Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, who heads the city’s anti-drug task force, told Rappler that city hall “does not sanction” the Payatas drug tests. She said the tests are “not conclusive,” but added it was not realistic to rely on the small number of government-approved drug-testing laboratories.
She does not agree the police should be conducting the tests. “For me, we are against that, but maybe those are their rules,” Belmonte said.
She trusts a program built by local leaders and concerned agencies would have a “propensity...towards saving the lives of the people rather than violating their rights.” She was clear that it wasn't her policy to "micromanage all 142 villages" in Quezon City.
Payatas Captain Peña said that her program has the blessing of city hall through a city ordinance.
It is a claim that Belmonte denied. The Payatas leadership created the protocols, she said, with no input from her office.
'It might happen to me'
Marlie Hizon will tell you she used to be beautiful. Not now, not with another pregnancy swelling her belly, but back then, when she was a scholar and walked the august halls of Miriam College with the bitches who told her she lived in a trash can.
She told them they had pretty cars, but that their faces were trash.
It wasn't all bad, she said. She worked hard. She swept the floors and helped at the cafeteria to pay for her commute home. Once in a while she hitched rides with the nice kids – “most of them are out of the country now, in Paris or somewhere.”
She left high school with a diploma, and was well into vocational school when Victor got her pregnant at nineteen.
Marlie eventually found out Victor was a dealer. He would make maybe a hundred bucks a sale. The rest would go to his supplier. They broke up every day and fought every day, until Victor was hauled off to jail in 2011. Marlie took odd jobs, selling produce at the market or stripping down to her underwear at a bar, all to keep Precious Claire in milk and diapers.
Victor got out eventually, and came knocking at Marlie’s door. Marlie was having none of it. Victor was a skirt-chasing bastard with a temper, and she could do better for herself. She is pleased to report she has had as many as four boyfriends at a time, just “for benefits.”
This is where Marlie lives, in a small house in an area called Lupang Pangako – the Promised Land. The cinderblock box sits at the end of a dim alley where the front room fits a small cot and not much else. Most of the house is plastered with Hello Kitty stickers and scavenged plastic poinsettias with the glitter falling off. The face of Jesus Christ looks down from the pockmarked wall. It is a short walk from where Victor used to live, and where he was murdered at two in the afternoon on November 12, 2016.
Victory de Belen, also known as Victor, also known as Suwe, also known as Asiong from the tattoo on his right rib from a stint in prison, was killed inside his house in Payatas B.
There were eight gunshots. Seven of the bullets smashed into the man who had once romanced Marlie with free cell phones and pretty underwear.
The police spot report filed at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit at Camp Karingal, Quezon City said two unidentified gunmen had been seen fleeing the scene on a motorcycle of unnamed mark and model.
The police later filed murder charges against seven suspects at the QC Prosecutor's Office. Two of the suspects were named. One had an alias. Four more were listed as John Does.
"I was afraid," said Marlie, "because of what happened to my daughter's father. It might happen to me."
It was seven months later, in July 2017, when Captain Peña’s house-to-house drug clearing operations began in earnest.
In the course of a single day, Marlie took the drug test three times: the first in an alley, the second in the village hall, and the third at the police station.
She said she tested negative every time.
'People were coercively asked for a urine sample'
In August, a Catholic priest named Danny Pilario complained publicly about Peña’s program.
“In some houses,” he wrote, “people were coercively asked for a urine sample and an on-the-spot drug test is done. When someone tests positive, he is either confirmed as part of an existing list or is added to it.”
Pilario, a university professor who had been ministering to Payatas for more than a decade, posted three photos over social media. Each picture showed a front gate, with a number scrawled large in black. He claimed the police and sector leaders had been marking houses “after handling a form [asking] who is the drug user/dealer in such house.”
The officials of the village hall and the commanders of the Philippine National Police were quick to characterize the drug testing as strictly voluntary.
“It’s just a survey,” said Captain Peña. “And if a mother tells me, ‘Cap, my son is using,’ I’ll ask, ‘Is your son really using?’ That’s when we offer to test.”
“These tests are voluntary,” said QCPD's Eleazar. “We are not forcing anyone to do it, that is illegal and we will not allow it.”
“The motive there is to help them rehab themselves,” said NCRPO Chief Oscar Albayalde. “It's not for them to be listed, not for them to be 'Tokhang'-ed later on.”
'Is anyone here involved in drugs?'
Captain Peña is a small woman, a little over 5 feet, silver glinting around a front tooth, her hair dyed a rough approximation of blonde. She has been captain for more than a year, one month more than the administration of His Excellency Rodrigo Duterte. She is a supporter of the President, her commitment so deep that she has taken to wearing a shirt with his name over her heart.
Captain Peña believes in his war against drugs. Drugs, she said, destroy the mind.
She said the police were present during visitations for the safety of sector leaders. The police did not lead the questioning. They did not ask about drugs. They were not permitted to enforce involuntary drug tests.
One Wednesday in September, nearly three months into the program, Captain Peña joined a visitation through the alleys of Payatas A. She called out greetings, shook hands, and hugged the occasional resident while the police and ward leaders trailed her down the back streets of the village.
The team was cheery, in spite of the suspicious homeowners who protested questions on drug use.
“Just a survey,” Peña would say. “Only an update,” the sector leader would add.
It was the policeman who held the stack of questionnaires and spoke to the women holding open their front doors.
“Hello Mommy! This is for the drug survey campaign of Station 6. We need you to answer a few questions. Is anyone here involved in drugs? Is there any history in the family of drugs?”
'They made him piss again'
Once, said Marlie, she was at the village hall when her godfather took his drug test.
He was no addict, she said, just a drunk who habitually drowned himself in gin. He had been tested six times. The results returned invalid.
The police told him to take the test in the village hall bathroom with a handful of other men. All the urine ran down a narow canal. Her godfather was tense, said Marlie, because the cops were waiting with a timer outside.
“So there they were in line,” said Marlie, “and he was at the end of it, so when the guy in front pissed, my godfather just scooped it up into his cup and turned it over to the cops.”
The test went positive.
“So I hit him in the back of the head,” Marlie said. “He went back and they made him piss again.”
He was still drunk when he was taken to Police Station 6, and just as drunk when a cop threatened him with a beating if he didn't behave.
Marlie's belly swells over skinny legs as she tells the story. Could be man or monster inside her gut, she said laughing, as she never had the money for an ultrasound.
Marlie Hizon, 26, may be the first Payatas resident willing to put a name to her story. There was the 19-year-old who told reporters he was so terrified to be tested he couldn’t piss in front of cops. There was the elderly woman who was forced to take the test in place of her granddaughter. There were the three residents from Payatas A, whose petition for a temporary restraining order was filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) at the regional trial court, just before the residents told their lawyers they had decided against executing affidavits.
The petition later became moot, after police withdrew from participating in the drug testing.
NUPL counsel Krissy Conti said their petitioners were summoned to a meeting at the village hall by Captain Peña. The petitioner who had volunteered to take the stand returned to NUPL "conflicted" and terrified.
He said the village hall had acquired a copy of the petition and disseminated it among his neighbors. He said he had been pressured to withdraw from the case.
“Next hearing,” Conti said, “he was on the other side of the room.”
In court, Peña told media that petitioners were withdrawing from the case. Reporters who attempted to speak to one petitioner were told the man was mute. He was not.
Marlie’s mother initially refused to be named for this story. Change my name, she said.
Tell them my name is Dina, Dina Bonnevie – for the actress who shot to fame in the '80s. Write it down, she said, say Dina Bonnevie.
It was Marlie who convinced her mother. The story needed to be told, she said. Her mother was too old for threats to matter.
Her name is Beth Hizon, 65, widow, mother of three, and a resident of Lupang Pangako, Payatas, Quezon City.
'What would I use as capital? My vagina?'
Beth Hizon had been found positive for marijuana in July. Her daughter said Beth didn't smoke cigarettes, much less marijuana. It was Beth's first and only test, before she began attending the village hall's counseling sessions that followed a module provided by the city government.
In August, Beth said, the cops came back to the Hizon house looking for Marlie. They told Beth that Marlie needed to be profiled at the village hall.
Beth protested. She said Marlie had already been tested thrice.
When Marlie appeared at the door, the police showed her a list. Every member of her family was on it, her mother Beth, her brothers RG and Luis, Marlie herself.
Her name was printed five times: Marlie Hizon, Marlie Hizon, Marlie Hizon, Marlie Hizon, Marlie Hizon, one after another, with “user-pusher” checked beside each iteration.
The police said the house was marked red on their list.
“And then,” said Beth, “Marlie went crazy.”
Marlie erupted with questions. What is this again? Don’t you know how embarrassing this is? That you keep coming back to us and just us? Don’t you have anywhere else to go? What do we have to do with drugs? So what if my ex was killed? What crime did I commit?
No, said Marlie, no. I am not going to be profiled. I am not leaving with you.
The cops told her they were looking for her brother Luis.
Luis, 25, the youngest in the family, was an occasional construction worker who never went past the first grade. Marlie affectionately calls him an idiot – “If I never taught him his vowels, he wouldn’t even be reading text messages.”
Luis was afraid to surrender. He said he knew of people who had been tortured by police from Police Station-6, men who had been forced to squat on slippers pierced by needles during interrogations.
It is a claim the commander of PS-6 denied.
"Nobody is being tortured here," said Superintendent Rossel Cejas, who took office in October of 2017. "That's against the law."
Luis told Rappler he was afraid to have his picture taken "because it would mean Tokhang in the end."
Tokhang, for Luis, meant death.
"When [they have your picture] and know you, their hitmen will go after you," he said. "There's nothing you can do."
Marlie refused to send for Luis. She refused to go with the cops to the police station. She refused the profiling at the village hall. She refused another urine test. She told them if they made her piss one more time she would file a complaint. She told the policemen to go into the house and decide whether it looked like it belonged to a drug dealer. They had no appliances. The single lightbulb was powered by stolen electricity – “What would I use as capital? My vagina?”
She threatened, and she yelled, and she demanded their names, all of them, written down. When Marlie was done, the police were on their way to their motorcycles, jackets zipped all the way up to their chins to cover their name plates.
“Of course I’m protecting my brother,” Marlie said. “Look at what happened to my boyfriend. Wasn’t he shot to death? We don’t even know who killed him. It’s been a year. We still don’t know.”
Marlie looked for Luis in the late afternoon. His front door was locked. The windows were shuttered. She found him inside, cowering under the sofa, huddled and shaking and terrified, asking, again and again, if the cops were gone.
“But we really did steal the electricity,” Marlie said with a grin. “Let them arrest us for that.”
'If they’re not hiding anything, it’s okay'
There were maps of Payatas Village inside a file on Captain Peña’s desk, along with photos of the captain posing with policemen.
On the maps, the houses were laid out on a grid, the cells numbered and divided by alleys. Group Three, Sector Ten, bound by Visayas and Mindanao Streets, had 19 homes marked red. There were three along Empire Hilltop, two in Phase Three Area A, and 14 in Phase Four.
“The red mark only means there are people in the house we haven’t spoken to,” said Captain Peña.
It was not necessary to speak to each family member to be considered drug-free, she said, “unless the family has a problem.”
“It could be someone in the house is using, or drug users were seen there. Not just users, they might be pushers too.”
On one of the maps, a small table explained the markings.
White means clear. Blue means the location is a business or an estabishment. “Redmark” means the presence of a pusher.
“It’s the QCPD and the village’s own initiative,” said Vice Mayor Belmonte.
Belmonte told Rappler that she discovered the extent of the Payatas program only through media reports. She spoke to personnel of Police Station-6 in the aftermath.
The police promised that they had stopped the visitations – “But they said, the only ones complaining in the community were the ones who had never been [drug] tested.” Belmonte said she was told the complainants were “the Kadamay-type” – referring to the activist progressive urban poor group whose clashes with the government made local headlines.
“[The police said] the ones who are just making a fuss, they’re not the actual residents,” she said. “Because actually, people say that for them, if they’re not hiding anything, it’s okay for them to be subjected to drug testing.”
Belmonte called herself a human rights advocate. She said it was necessary to keep an open mind while dealing with a variety of communities, “because the treatment of the rich, the poor and the middle class are really very different.”
“Payatas is a very poor community, and they have a lot of trust in their village leaders,” Belmonte said. “I think what happened was they agreed among themselves, the village hall, the village captain, the NGO sector, the religious. They all agreed that they were okay with door-to-door drug testing via the urine test. I don’t think they were forced when the police talked to them, they said yes, and if they don’t want to, they weren’t coerced.”
Refusing tests means something
If there is any doubt about the purpose of the house-to-house campaign, they are explained in the Payatas Village Drug Clearing Program Conceptual Framework that Captain Peña released to the media. Each page is printed with logos of the Philippine National Police.
Focus Teams, composed of sector leaders, concerned civilians, at least eight police personnel and a representative of the BADAC are to “conduct house to house visitation to validate members for presence of any Users/Pushers.”
Households are to be encouraged to conduct voluntary drug testing, or in the event they do not, they may, at the discretion of the sector leader, be issued certificates that the house is clear of any drug dependents.
Households that are cleared will be tagged with drug free stickers, but only in the presence of PNP personnel. They will be given survey forms “if ever [they] want to divulge any vital information that will help the Program.”
The procedure requires that a database of the drug clearing program must be prepared for every sector by police personnel and sector leaders. The list must follow “the format provided by Batasan Police Station 6.”
Those who test positive are to be brought to Police Station 6 “for recording,” before they are processed for counseling or rehabilitation by village officials.
Households “identified” as having drug dependents, users or pushers at present “will be demanded to undergo Drug Testing.”
There are no specifics as to how the clearing team will “demand” the execution of a drug test.
A staff member at the village hall, in charge of the Payatas drug database, said there are cases when surrenderers who come in refuse testing, despite them being told that “little by little, their names will be cleared.”
“Why don’t they want to be tested? That means something.”
Whatever it means, the names are listed, not by the village staff, but by the cop who sits beside them, watching every surrenderer who walks through the office door.
'It’s called a surrender, you moron'
It was late in August 2017, after yet another police visit, when Marlie decided Luis should surrender. She wanted the red mark on the map wiped off their house.
This is what you say, she told him. Tell them you were a user. Tell them the truth. Tell the Captain, she’ll make sure you’re okay.
She asked him if he was ready. He took a long bath, and put on his best clothes. He said, yes, okay, ready, I’m ready.
So they walked, brother and sister, Marlie and Luis, down the road, past Esmosis and the alley where Marlie’s husband was killed, down Canaan Street to the village hall. They didn’t get very far. The cops appeared and demanded a drug test, then and there, on the street, by the well.
So Luis pulled down his pants and pissed. The cop who held the test said he was positive.
Marlie grabbed Luis’ test. She brought out hers. The results were the same. She said the police were lying, that all of them were lying, that the test was as negative as hers.
Another cop reached for the test and began whipping it in the air, just like they did for Marlie’s mother.
Brother and sister were beginning to walk to the village hall when another cop called out. “Someone go with them, they might run away.”
Marlie shouted back. “It’s called a surrender, you moron!”
It all ended there, with Luis refusing to go any further and Marlie stomping home in the hot afternoon.
'He said it meant we were guilty if we didn’t fill up his form'
The police returned to the Hizon house one last time in September, before the President suspended for the second time police participation in the drug war.
Marlie had already gone through her fourth drug test – “They told me I needed another one to prove I was really negative.” She said she was charged 50 pesos by a village hall employee – roughly one US dollar. Peña denied residents are asked to pay.
Only one policeman wore a uniform during the last visit. The other three had jackets over their polo shirts.
The cop in uniform asked Marlie when Luis was coming home. He told her it was important to profile Luis.
Marlie said the policeman was respectful, unlike the three others who wanted her to go with them to the police station. They said they wanted her picture for their profile.
“Those three monkey-looking ones, they were making me go on their motorcycle," she said. "Me, backride, and pregnant? What are they, idiots?”
The uniformed cop explained they had been sent back to verify the Hizon family's status. He said their continued refusal was causing problems. He explained the profile was for Marlie's own good.
If she refused, he said, it would “prove you’re guilty.”
So Marlie answered questions. She said she was handed a questionnaire, not a survey form. Most of the questions were connected to drugs. What is your mother’s name? What is her job? How many of you live here? Do you use? Are you a pusher? Who is your supplier?
She answered them all, as much as she could.
“He said it meant we were guilty if we didn’t fill up his form.”
'It really gladdens the heart'
After the public outcry against the program, the QCPD ended their participation in Payatas’ door-to-door drug testing.
QCPD Director Eleazar said he had the program stopped the moment he discovered his personnel were being “overzealous.”
While village officials had the right to conduct surveys, ask questions, and offer drug tests, Eleazar said the police of Station 6 were not authorized. They were only there “for security.”
Whatever mistakes were made, they occurred in the police’s attempt to provide aid at the request of village officers.
“It’s safe to say that everything that was done there was done on a voluntary basis,” Eleazar said. “So the giving of information was voluntary, the surrenders were voluntary, the administration of free drug tests were voluntary, the answering of surveys was on a voluntary basis. But now, just to correct everything, it’s better if everything goes through the village hall. The police will just give assistance.”
On October 12, 2017, the President suspended police participation in the drug war again, this time after protests over the killings of minors.
In the week after the suspension, according to Eleazar, the Quezon City Council passed a resolution requesting the President to return the QCPD police to anti-illegal drug operations in “a show of trust and confidence.”
“The fact that the city, the vice mayor, and the whole of the council has done this and the support given to us by the village captains is incredible, it really gladdens the heart,” said Eleazar.
“They’re the ones who said are requesting the President to bring us back, if not in other cities, they want at least the Quezon City Police to be directly involved in the campaign against illegal drugs. And for that we are very glad and very happy.”
On November 22, the President announced he intended to return the police to the frontlines.
"Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely it will increase the [drug] activity,” he told soldiers in a speech.
Marlie is due to give birth in November. She believes her new man is better than Victor, the jackass who got her into trouble in the first place. Maybe she’ll get married, maybe she won’t. What she is not willing to do is piss one more time, not after four tests, not in front of one more cop, and not because some goddamned bitch down the street pointed a finger at her and her family.
Batasan Police Station-6's new commander, Superintendent Rossel Sejas, promised that his men will not be involved in drug testing. They will "just provide police security and presence to the sector leaders and barangay officials."
Sejas said he was unaware if any of his officers are currently under investigation.
"Our priority if ever the drug war is returned," Sejas said, "is to arrest, neutralize all reported drug pushers and users in accordance [with] the police operational procedure and with respect [for] human dignity of every individual."
Captain Peña is also waiting. Her village is not yet clear of drugs, and the police role is uncertain.
“Maybe we’ll go visiting the houses ourselves,” she said. “I have to ask the village leaders if they’re willing.”
In the meantime, the marks on the village maps will remain red. – Rappler.com
Editor's note: Unless stated otherwise, all data referring to number of kills resulted from a review of spot reports of deaths under investigation and armed encounters between July 2016 and January 2017. The QCPD allowed Rappler access to them. All quotations have been translated into English.
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