When you meet an assassin who has killed six people, you don’t expect to encounter a diminutive, nervous young woman carrying a baby.
“My first job was two years ago in this province nearby. I felt really scared and nervous because it was my first time.”
Maria, not her real name, now carries out contract killings as part of the government-sanctioned war on drugs.
She is part of a hit team that includes three other women, who are valued because they can get close to their victims without arousing the same suspicion a man would.
Since President Duterte was elected, and urged citizens and police to kill drug dealers who resisted arrest, Maria has killed five more people, shooting them all in the head.
Asked who gave her the orders for these assassinations: “Our boss, the police officer,” she said.
She and her husband had been told their safe house had been exposed. They had to move in a hurry.
This controversial drug war has brought her more work, but more risk too. She described how it began when her husband was commissioned to kill a debtor by a policeman — one who was also a drug pusher.
“My husband was ordered to kill people who had not paid what they owed.”
This turned into a regular commission for her husband until a more challenging situation cropped up.
“One time, they needed a woman… my husband tapped me to do the job. When I saw the man I was supposed to kill, I got near him and I shot him. ”
President Duterte came to power promising to crack down on crime and drugs.
Maria and her husband come from an impoverished neighbourhood in Manila and had no regular income before agreeing to become contract killers. They earn up to 20,000 Philippines pesos (AUD570 or £327) per hit, which is shared between three or four of them. That is a fortune for low-income Filipinos, but now it looks as if Maria has no way out.
Contract killing is nothing new in the Philippines. But the hit squads have never been as busy as they are now. President Duterte has sent out an unambiguous message.
Ahead of his election, he promised to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office. He has warned drug dealers in particular: “Do not destroy my country, because I will kill you.” He reiterated that blunt view, as he defended the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals.
“Do the lives of 10 of these criminals really matter? If I am the one facing all this grief, would 100 lives of these idiots mean anything to me?”
What has provoked the rough-tongued president to unleash this merciless campaign is the proliferation of the drug crystal meth or “shabu” as it is known in the Philippines. Cheap, easily made, and intensely addictive, it offers an instant high, an escape from the filth and drudgery of life in the slums, a hit to get labourers in gruelling jobs like truck-driving through their day. (Source: www.bbc.com)