Assassins Ace and Sheila, who are part of a prolific hit team, have defended their roles in the bloodbath and say they turned to a life of murder so their children wouldn’t starve.
The parents say they earn $100 for every kill and are doing critical work because “many lives will be ruined” if a dealer isn’t executed.
More than 4,000 alleged users and dealers – and an untold number of innocent victims – have been killed after new President Rodrigo “The Punisher” Duterte won power and promised a crackdown on drugs-related crime.
During his election campaign Duterte appeared to encourage extrajudicial killings, but he has denied any links to a wave of killings that has terrorised the country and been condemned by human rights groups.
Ace and Sheila’s group claimed responsibility for a quarter of 2,800 extrajudicial murders which had occurred by the time they spoke to SBS Dateline using fake names and disguises to hide their identities.
In a chilling interview the husband and wife hit squad described how they got involved in the mayhem and how their targets are chosen by a “boss” who is a well-known policeman.
Ace said: “They might be ordinary people, but they’re all pretty much the same – drug pushers or crooks. Or they’ve crossed our boss. We bring down those types of people.
“Just with a phone call we get the person’s identification, we’ll just base it on that. Then, if we find the person on their own, we go in immediately and kill him. And then get away.”
He added: “From the beginning, when I started this, I knew it was really risky. But if I don’t do it, there’s an even greater risk that I won’t be able to feed my family. Because I can’t do any other work.”
Ace said Sheila is brought in at times when the kill squad’s male members can’t get close to its victim.
She sometimes pretends to work as a dancer in a club if the target is a regular visitor of bars.
Every target is shot to death and the vigilante group aims to finish every “job” within three days.
She said: “That’s how it’s done. When we’re given the identification, we don’t ask questions. The first rule in our group is ‘Don’t ask questions’.”
The hit squad leaves a card reading “pusher” at the scene to attract media and provide proof that “the job is done”.
Sheila admitted she feels guilty when she goes home and sees her children, but tried to justify the killings.
She said: “I tell myself that the person I’ve killed is a much worse person. Many lives will be ruined if he is not killed. So he must die, and that’s not my fault.
“I’ve done nothing wrong. If he weren’t a bad person he wouldn’t have been in that situation.
Despite her guilt it’s not something that she can just walk away from.
She fears if she were to abruptly quit she would be murdered by the hit squad to prevent her from revealing their secrets.