Two Photos Show the Consequences of the World's War on Drugs

August 10th 2016

The war on drugs might be winding down in the U.S. — but in the Philippines, another drug war is raging. The country's newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, has called on police and citizens alike to turn in and punish suspected drug offenders in a bid to "eradicate" crime. Two photos from the country's antidrug campaign stand out, representing the consequences of this hidden war on drugs.

The first photo shows Michael Siaron, a cab driver suspected of selling drugs, killed by unknown gunmen.

Michael Siaron is one of more than 400 alleged drug offenders who've been killed by police or vigilantes since Duterte took office in June, The Atlantic reported. Duterte has essentially authorized extrajudicial killings of those believed to be involved in the drug trade, leading to a rise in "vigilante justice." This photo, called "La Pietá," shows Siaron's girlfriend holding his body after he was fatally shot in the streets. Beside his body, a sign reads, "I am a drug pusher, don't emulate."

After telling citizens that he would award "a medal" to those who kill suspected drug dealers who resist arrest, Duterte has dismissed criticism of his antidrug campaign. When Siaron's girlfriend, Jennilyn Olayres, confronted the president with the photo, he reportedly blamed the media for "hyping drama" about extrajudicial killings.

The second photo shows another consequence of the Philippines' rampant war on drugs: prison overcrowding.

Getty's Noel Celis captured this photo of prisoners sardined at Quezon City jail in Manila last month. The group slept on the prison's basketball court because of a lack of space. Quezon City jail was only designed to house 800 inmates; today it houses 3,800, according to The Washington Post. Duterte's crackdown on drug activity has led to a spike in the country's prison population: More than 4,400 suspected drug dealers have been arrested since he took office, and almost 600,000 have turned themselves in to avoid being killed.

"We are concerned by these detentions, as well as the extrajudicial killing of individuals suspected to be involved in drug activity in the Philippines," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said on Monday. "We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with its human rights obligations."

Though citizens haven't been enlisted in America's war on drugs in the same way that citizens in the Philippines have, the U.S. antidrug campaign has also contributed to the country's mass incarceration problem. In 2014, more than 2.2 million Americans were incarcerated in local, state, and federal prisons, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. More than 1.5 million people were arrested on drug-related charges that year, and about 1.2 million of those arrests were for possession only.

RELATED: The Real Reason We Started the War on Drugs

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