Warning: Graphic

His body in a funeral parlour, nobody knows who he is and no one has come forward to claim him.

Like hundreds of others, he is given the name Mr X.

And like hundreds of others he will eventually be buried in a mass grave with no family or loved ones around to witness the occasion.


Labelled a suspected drug user or pusher, Mr X will remain unclaimed and unknown with his family too sacred or too poor to pay for a funeral.

CNN went inside a Manila funeral home, with bodies everywhere. Photo / CNN
CNN went inside a Manila funeral home, with bodies everywhere. Photo / CNN

This is the reality for those living in the poorest and heaviest crime-ridden slums in Manila after firebrand leader Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte began his war on drugs last year.

His brutal crackdown has seen thousands of suspected drug dealers, users and innocent people killed as police and vigilantes are literally given a licence to kill.

Duterte, nicknamed The Punisher, swept to power last June, promising to kill 100,000 drug users and pushers and throwing their bodies in Manila Bay.

CNN went inside some of the poorest slums in the capital, providing another revealing insight into President Duterte's war on drugs.

Correspondent Will Ripley spoke to families who have suffered at the hands of the bloody crackdown and spoke to a funeral home manager in Manila.

Surrounded by dozens of bodies, the manager reveals how his busiest time is at 2am and how sometimes bodies are brought in and never claimed.

People like this are given the name Mr X, not only because no-one knows who he is but because his family hasn't come forward to claim him.


"Yeah. It means no family," the funeral home manager clarifies.

The families are either too poor to pay the costs of a funeral, or too scared of further retribution.

The alarming CNN footage comes as Human Rights Watch released a new damning report, Licence to Kill: Philippine Police Killings in Duterte's War on Drugs yesterday.

It found police have been planting and falsifying evidence to justify the killings which has so far claimed more than 7000 lives.

CNN's Will Ripley speaks with a funeral home manager in Manila who reveals the name given to unclaimed bodies. Photo / CNN
CNN's Will Ripley speaks with a funeral home manager in Manila who reveals the name given to unclaimed bodies. Photo / CNN

HRW said the President's war has targeted the mostly urban poor and that his campaign may have amounted to a crime against humanity.

Human Rights Watch's emergencies director Peter Bouckaert made two trips to Manila to document this unprecedented mass wave of killings.

Mr Bouckaert said President Duterte's role in these killings ultimately made him responsible for the deaths of thousands.

"Our investigations into the Philippine 'drug war' found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene," he said.

HRW drew on interviews with 28 family member of victims and witnesses to police killings.

HRW accused the Philippine National Police of carrying out extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and falsely claiming it was carried out in self-defence.

The group said police not only planted guns on victims but also drugs to implicate the dead.

Alarmingly it found masked gunmen who took part in killings appeared to be working closely with the police, casting doubt on government claims that the majority of killings have been committed by vigilantes or rival drug gangs.

HRW said it was more concerning since the President had praised the rising body count as proof that his war on drugs was working.

It also said the was a pattern to most killings which usually took place late at night inside urban slum areas.

Bodies were often found with their hands tied or head wrapped in plastic.

"Under the veneer of anti-drug operations, the Philippine police at Duterte's urging have killed thousands of Filipinos," Mr Bouckaert said.

"Many killings of drug suspects followed the same deadly routine and indicate a pattern of police abuse."

HRW also criticised the Philippine Government for its claim that drug pushers were being targeted when many low level users have also been killed.

No arrests have been made over the unlawful killings, despite several witnesses claiming police have planted evidence at the scene of the crime.

Elaine Pearson, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch said it was time for the Philippines government to stop the killing spree once and for all.

"A UN investigation will be the first step in holding police to account for what could amount to crimes against humanity, as well as accountability for President Duterte who has cheered the police on in their deadly campaign," she said.

"The Australian government should be working with other countries to initiate a UN investigation and Australia should suspend all assistance to the Philippines police until it ends this deadly war on drugs and initiates meaningful investigations into the thousands of deaths.