Three-year-old Natalie Magno stared bewildered at the crowd outside her family home in the Filipino capital, Manila, as she clung to her grandmother. Her soft brown hair still ruffled after being pulled from her bed at 2.30am, she did not yet know that her father was dead.

A few metres away, just out of sight, her father Jeremiah's red blood ran, stark and fresh, down a potholed lane. Minutes earlier his body had been stretchered off, wrapped in a stained white sheet.

Three bullets had felled the 32-year-old construction worker as he sat on a dark street corner in the slum district of Masville late on Monday night.

Magno, a user of methamphetamine, had become the latest victim in Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's vicious war on drugs.

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A Filipino activist shout slogans calling for an end to extrajudicial killings related to Philippine President Rodrigo. Photo / AP
A Filipino activist shout slogans calling for an end to extrajudicial killings related to Philippine President Rodrigo. Photo / AP

More than 3000 people have died in a crackdown on illegal drugs since Duterte swept to power in the Philippines in June, killed either in police operations or by alleged vigilante death squads.

The pledge to enforce zero tolerance on drugs was central to his election campaign. Duterte denies links to extra-judicial murder, but he has publicly urged citizens to "go ahead and kill" addicts and dealers.

Critics accuse him of unleashing a wave of uncontrolled violence where masked assassins gun people down with absolute impunity. Victims include Aurora Moynihan, 45, daughter of the late British peer Anthony Moynihan, who was shot and dumped by a Manila roadside in September.

The killings have sparked international condemnation and calls for a United Nations probe.

Duterte has responded with expletive-ridden tirades, dismissing US President Barack Obama as a "son of a whore" when he raised concerns. On Tuesday he said the president could "go to hell" and warned that he was willing to turn his back on America and buy weapons from Russia and China.

An atmosphere of intimidation now reigns across the 98 million-strong island nation, prompting over 700, 000 drug users to sign up to a government plan to "surrender" to the police and avoid charges.

But lawyers and activists fear that some who surrender end up on so-called "kill lists", with a target on their backs.

Jeremiah Magno confessed to the police two months ago that he was a drugs user.

His older brother John-Paul, 37, had encouraged him to do so. "I told him I didn't want him to end up lying [dead] on the pavement," he said.

Jeremiah had used drugs to escape his problems, but he was not a dealer, he said. The police asked him to sign a pledge to go clean and that's what he did.

His family were blindsided by his death.

"I'm so shocked," a shaken John-Paul told The Telegraph a few hours after his brother's murder. "I was sleeping. At around 11pm I felt a cold, strong hug. Then my cousin called to say there was an emergency."

When he arrived his brother lay dead by the family home where his niece and mother, Evelyn, had been sleeping. Neighbours said they had heard shots fired from three unidentified men on motorbikes.

John-Paul checked immediately on his niece. "She thought I was her father and hugged me," he said.

This file photo shows Jennilyn Olayres hugging the dead body of her partner Michael Siaron who was shot by unidentified gunman. Photo / AP
This file photo shows Jennilyn Olayres hugging the dead body of her partner Michael Siaron who was shot by unidentified gunman. Photo / AP

Four hours drive away, in the northern city of Dagupan, the drugs war had already shattered the life of another young girl, Danica Mae, who was only five when she was killed in the crossfire of a murder attempt on her grandfather, Maximo Garcia.

In August, Mr Garcia, a rickshaw driver and a Duterte voter, was terrified to find his name on a police list as a drugs pusher, an accusation he strongly denies.

Through tears, his wife Gemma, 51, said he went to the police to clear his name. Three days later the couple were having lunch with their four grandchildren in the muddy courtyard next to their plywood home when a motorbike pulled up.

A masked man pointed a pistol through the slats of their wooden fence and shot Mr Garcia four times.

Danica was washing behind a tarpaulin sheet when a bullet entered the right side of her neck and exited her left cheek. Her devastated family rushed her to hospital by motorbike but Danica was already gone.

Mr Garcia is now in hiding, guiltridden at the death of his dancing, singing granddaughter. "They were very close," said his wife. "When he was ill and bed-ridden, Danica used to massage his legs."

Mrs Garcia still keeps a copy of the police list. She has no idea how Maximo ended up on it, but she believes the uproar over Danica's fate has saved others listed. "More would be dead if Danica hadn't been killed," she said.

Manila-based lawyer, Jose Manual Diokno, compared the recent prevalence of such lists to a similar system during the 1970s dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos, singling out 'enemies of the state'.

"Nowadays they refer to them as addicts or drug pushers but the shortcuts and lack of due process are exactly the same," he said.

"We are all in the dark about where they are coming from,"he added. "I don't know what kind of verification is done to check their accuracy."

Diokno described the outbreak of lawless killing as unprecedented. "In terms of the scale, the numbers, the degree of what's happening, it's something that never happened before," he said.

The police have blamed the murder spree on criminal gangs intent on stopping the government crackdown.

"These are multibillion dollar drug syndicates. They won't take it sitting down," said Guillermo Eleazar, senior superintendent of Quezon city police force, near Manila.

But the police have not solved any cases, and the public fears both law enforcers and the drug lords.

Opposition Senator Leila De Lima says she fears for her life after launching a senate inquiry to expose the truth about the death squads. Photo / AP
Opposition Senator Leila De Lima says she fears for her life after launching a senate inquiry to expose the truth about the death squads. Photo / AP

Duterte's arch-nemesis, Senator Leila de Lima, says she now fears for her life after launching a senate inquiry to expose the truth about the death squads.

"Stop this madness," she demanded last week as the death toll continued to mount.

By Thursday, the Magno family had brought Jeremiah's embalmed body back home for a four day wake.

Standing by his brother's open white casket, John-Paul's eyes flicked nervously to the door as a loud motorbike pulled up. He is too afraid of revenge attacks to pursue a criminal investigation.

Dressed in a pink nightgown and Hello Kitty headband, Natalie stood on the stairs looking towards the coffin. "Daddy's dead," she said to herself.

She clambered down and pulled at John-Paul's trouser leg until he lifted her up to see her father's waxen face. "I miss Daddy," she said, pointing. "I miss him."