In the Philippines, there exists a mythological creature. A monster without mercy; it kills at night. Children are told not to go out after dark, for even they are not safe. In connection with a corrupt government led by President Duterte, Aswang has come to symbolize fear. Citizens have been murdered by police said to be doing Duterte’s bidding: Rid the country of drug abusers.

The result of his mandated extrajudicial killings is documented by Alyx Ayn Arumpac, in Aswang. She shows the human side of the so-called criminals posthumously, and the effects on their family and friends. The picture she paints is that these are human beings. Their families vouch for their innocence perhaps not knowing about any illicit drug use. Even if they were guilty, being shot in the eye and allowed to beg for mercy is not how they should have lived their last moments.

If the objective is to cleanse the city of drugs, why also shoot the unrelated neighbor’s dog? The killings are senseless, cruel and incite citizen protests. Children are orphaned while their parent is jailed, but at least in these cases, prison allows for potential release. The children whose parents are murdered will be scarred for life.

As we’ve all seen with this year’s muddied statistics about Covid deaths, numbers are often inflated, increased or decreased depending on the desired effect by statisticians and world leaders. Telling a country there are 1000 people killed per month, when the official number is over 31,000 per month further shows the cover-up surrounding Duterte’s war on drugs. Arumpac says that people are so scared of Aswang, they will do anything to avoid it. But there are also those who will look it straight in the eye.



RIDM – On Demand, November 26th to December 2nd, 2020