A five-year-old girl has become the youngest reported victim of the Philippines' deadly war on drugs, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. Danica May Garcia bled to death after she was suffered a gunshot wound to the head as her family sat down to lunch on Tuesday, 23 August.
The target of the hit was the child's grandfather, 53-year-old Maximo Garcia, according to reports. Just days before the killing in Dagupan City, located more than 130 miles north-west of Manila, Garcia handed himself into the local police in an effort to clear his name after he was suspected of being involved in the drug trade. Garcia survived three gunshots to the abdomen.
"We have a witness who came forward to identify the gunman," Dagupan police Chief Neil Miro told CNN. "I will withhold the name of the suspect, but it seems it may have something to do with illegal drugs, too.
"We are still investigating the real motive, but since Maximo Garcia surrendered last Friday for drug use, we have reason to believe the attack was related to his drug activities," he added.
Since Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on 1 July, more than 1,000 people have been killed by unidentified gunmen as part of the national "war on drugs", according to HRW. In addition, statistics show that 712 "drug pushers and users" have been killed in police operations.
"This is so painful to us," Garcia's wife, Gemma, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "I would miss the nights when Danica would massage us until we fell asleep. I would miss her laughter when she teased her mother."
She denied that her husband had ever been involved in drugs and expressed fear over Garcia's fate. "We are afraid to stay here. But the problem is where will we go? The killers may come back for my husband," she said.
Duterte's merciless crackdown on crime has been widely criticised, prompting rights groups and some politicians to speak out against the 71-year-old. On Monday (22 August), Filipino senators began an investigation into the spiralling deaths under Duterte's leadership.
"What is particularly worrisome is that the campaign against drugs seems to be an excuse for some – may I just emphasise, some – law enforcers and other vigilantes to commit murder with impunity," senator Leila de Lima said.