The Philippines war on drugs has reached a new level, with government officials hiring hitmen to execute low-level drug dealers.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his tough stance on drugs, has implemented a shoot-to-kill policy for any person suspected of being involved in the drug trade, CNN reports.
"If [a criminal] fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him," Duterte said in a speech, according to CNN. "Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun. ... You have my support."
Since he has taken office on June 30, 1,900 people have been killed for their relation to the drug trade, according to the BBC. Of the 1,900, 756 were killed by police.
Police officers have now taken to hiring contract killers in order to execute drug dealers in the Philippines' poorest parts of the country. Often, the killers are women, as they can get closer to the target without arousing the same suspicion a man would.
Many of these contractors are extremely poor, and see this work as their only way to make a living. One woman, referred to only as Maria by the BBC, said that she has killed more than five people, shooting them all in the head execution style.
Each kill is worth up to 20,000 Philippines pesos ($430), which is considered to be a fortune to those like Maria, who live in the extremes of poverty. Both her and her husband are contract killers, working for the police.
"I feel guilty and it is hard on my nerves. I don't want the families of those I have killed to come after me," she said.
Many residents applaud President Duterte's drug policies, saying that the drug "shabu," or crystal meth as it is known in the West, can destroy lives and increase crime rates, according to the BBC. The country has numerous industrial-scale labs that mass produce the drug and distribute it throughout Asia.
"We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars -- or below the ground, if they so wish," said Duterte in a speech, according to CNN.
"It's a war, not a crisis," he added. "Why should these people live?"
One drug dealer who is currently being hunted by the police's execution squad has lived his life on the run since Duterte took office.
"Every day, every hour, I cannot get the fear out of my chest. It's really tiring and scary to hide all the time. You don't know if the person right in front of you will inform on you, or if the one facing you might be a killer," he said to the BBC.
The man, who uses the pseudonym Roger, realizes that he has had a part in fueling the devastating drug trade. Nonetheless, he believes that Duterte's policies are too harsh.
"I do truly believe that I have committed sins ..." he said. "But what I can say is that not everyone who uses drugs is capable of committing those crimes, of stealing, and eventually killing. I'm also an addict but I don't kill. I'm an addict but I don't steal."