Fiji Time: 5:01 PM on Sunday 18 February

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Nightfall in Manila

Saturday, February 10, 2018

MANILA - As night falls in Manila, the Philippine capital, few of the 700 families living in the sprawling portside shanty town known as Market 3 dare to venture out of their homes.

The crime-ridden maze of sheet metal, crumbling cement and wooden boards has become a frontline of the bloody war on illegal drugs that has defined Rodrigo Duterte's presidency since it was unleashed in June 2016.

Dozens of Filipinos who lived along the slum's narrow dirt-floor alleys have wound up dead. The community lives in fear of masked or mystery men dragging away slum dwellers, or police and their notorious "Tokhang" operations, where officers are required to knock on doors of suspected dealers to urge them to surrender. But those visits have been fatal.

"Many people have left. They leave because of Tokhang," said Nenita Bravo, a 56-year-old Market 3 resident.

"We can't really count them anymore," she said, referring to those killed, adding that she had witnessed many killings in the area. "We can't really count them because there's been so many."

Bullet-ridden corpses are found hours or even days later, often just a few minutes away, although police say there have been no illegal killings in their anti-drug campaign.

Yet the frequent police operations and shadowy murders have hit the slum hard and those who live there say more blood has been spilled since he was elected president on the promise to wipe out drugs and crime in six months.

"Since Duterte came, that's when there was a rise in killings. It was pitiful, especially so for the many women killed," said Visitacion Castellano, 73, a long-time resident of Market 3.

"They should have given them years. Put them in jail. But not kill."

In Spanish colonial times, Navotas, as the area was known before the patchwork of shanty communities emerged, was the home of a middle class that lived off the sea, either as owners of fishing boats or shipbuilders.

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