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Award-winning film documents Duterte's bloody drug war

Director depicts modern, state-sanctioned 'monsters' that stalk at night

A still from director Alyx Arumpac's award-winning documentary "Aswang" (Monster), which takes a blunt look at the chroniclers, the victims and the destruction in the wake of the drug war launched by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after he came to power in 2016. (Courtesy of Alyx Arumpac)

MANILA -- Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a haunted place. Watching the scenes of director Alyx Arumpac's award-winning documentary "Aswang" (Monster) makes you feel as though the city's pavement will open up to swallow you whole, chew your flesh and spit out your bones. Although the city itself is not the villain in Arumpac's story, the true evil behind these horrors has transformed the metropolis into a much darker place. The real-life culprit and monster that the film brings to the surface are more terrifying. There is nothing supernatural about the authorities and the country's law enforcement system.

Manila was not always like this; it has been pushed to the edge of reason by a demonic, state-sponsored campaign. The anti-drug war, colloquially dubbed Oplan Tokhang and launched by President Rodrigo Duterte after he came to power in 2016, has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 victims, according to the country's Commission on Human Rights.

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