Transcript

On the President’s Orders

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PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE:

Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there is 3 million drug addicts; I'd be happy to slaughter them.

In 2016, President Duterte of the Philippines launched a brutal war on drugs.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Another night, another killing, in the Philippine government’s war on drugs —

MALE NEWSREADER:

All of this openly encouraged by President Duterte i n what has become open season for anyone suspected of being tied to drugs.

MALE NEWSREADER:

His orders to his people and his police: Kill them.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

At least, if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have had, you know, me.

Over the next year, police say they killed more than 3,000 drug suspects.

Thousands more users and dealers were reported executed by masked gunmen.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Vigilante-style killings; many suspect police involvement.

MALE NEWSREADER:

President Duterte is delivering with a vengeance on his promises: mass extrajudicial killings.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

My campaign against drugs will not stop until the last pusher and the last drug lord are —

Then in summer 2017, police were accused of killing two unarmed teenagers in the Caloocan district of Manila.

MALE PROTESTER:

[Speaking Filipino] For this Duterte must pay!

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The public has been largely supportive of Duterte’s ruthless methods, but that may finally be changing.

Soon after, the entire Caloocan police force was fired and Duterte promised to scale back his war on drugs.

This is the story of what happened next.

CAPT. OCTAVIO DEIMOS, SWAT Unit Leader:

People say we are killers.

Now be a good boy, or I’ll shoot you.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[shouting]

JEMAR MODEQUILLO, Senior Superintendent, Caloocan Police :

Please take a seat.

September 2017

A new police chief, Jemar Modequillo, is brought into Caloocanwhere many of the controversial drug killings occurred.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

We really want change. We want to make a difference, my dear friends. We want to make the future of Caloocan the home of the discipline.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Shouting]

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

It’s very important to win the hearts and minds of the people. We do not want to kill —n o. If we can resolve things without having death penalty, then why not?

Chief Modequillo vows to make the police more disciplined and reduce deaths in police operations.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

OK, showtime.

Are you ready?

POLICE [in unison]:

Ready, sir!

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

Fire one round and holster. And remember, gentlemen —

[Speaking Filipino] — this is a real gun.

A real gun.

[Speaking English] Ready, up!

Hold fire! God damn it.

[Speaking Filipino] Was that one round? Holster. Wankers. That's what I was talking about. I'm going to kick you. You do not know how to — son of a bitch! Son of a gun.

[Speaking English] Do you understand one round? Do you understand one round?

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Yes, sir!

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] You say, "Yes, sir. Yes, sir." But then you can't follow instructions?

[Speaking English] What is important in this kind of training is your discipline.

[Speaking Filipino] Up! Son of a bitch! Do you want me to shoot you?

[Speaking English] In order for you to earn respect you need two things: they are afraid of me, or they like me. Those two things only. [Laughs]

Thirty pushups.

[Speaking Filipino] Do it. Wankers.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The Philippine leader has faced harsh criticism for launching a bloody drug war in his country over the past year. Thousands of people have been killed —

Caloocan district, Manila

Population: 1.8 million

MALE NEWSREADER:

—reports of o ver 5,000 drug-related deaths. The poor have been mostly affected by the campaign.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

—Rodrigo Duterte. They say his so-called war on drugs is a class war — a war against the poor.

AXEL MARTINEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] We have a gang called M-Town. We are just poor kids from the slums. Life here is tough.

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] Wash away your sins.

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] Bro, your soul will be clean .

FEMALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] You’re a dirty person!

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] We’re going to be so white after this .

FEMALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] I’m not .

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] Our skin will turn gold .

Let me do it.

TEENS [in unison]:

One, two, three — [Laughter]

AXEL MARTINEZ :

[Speaking Filipino] I'm the leader because I am the oldest. I'm the one who knows the tricks for not getting into trouble with the police.

I just let them be; I don’t care about them.

Axel Martinez

AXEL MARTINEZ :

[Speaking Filipino] Caloocan is a dark place. These cops, they won’t change.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] Come here, we are policemen. Pull up your shirt. Pull up your shirt. Just do it. You're hiding something.

People say we're killers. So next time show some respect. Now be a good boy, or I’ll shoot you.

AXEL MARTINEZ :

[Speaking Filipino] They still terrorize us. They still want to kill us.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The police have faced mounting criticism and accusations of rampant corruption and human rights abuses. Now there’s a major shift in the campaign.

CAPT. WILL CABRALES, Team Leader, Special Operations Unit:

[Speaking Filipino] We are the S.O.U. The Special Operations Unit directly under Chief of Police, Sir Modequillo. They put him here to fix Caloocan. He’s the man to fix a place.

When he took over he told me so many people died already from our government's drug campaigns. In his term, he wants it to be—[speaking English] less bloody—[speaking Filipino] but more accomplishments instead. Only a few people die, but more will be arrested.

Captain Will Cabrales

Team Leader, Special Operations Unit

The police have an extensive list of suspected drug users and dealers.

Those who don't surrender become targets for arrest.

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] So this suspect, Jimmy Aussa, is well known in his area. He's been reported as a headache in his area. It's drugs, right?

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] Yeah, but we don't have a search warrant. We know he has drugs, but we don't have a search warrant.

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] No, what we do in this case is focus on the gun. Always where there is a gun the drugs will be the second offense. He’s definitely got drugs?

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] He's definitely got drugs. Someone like Jimmy Aussa, sir, if he gets out, he'll keep going back to his old ways. We will have to hunt him again and again. That's why we need to finish him right away.

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] No, I asked the chief if we can go overboard, but he said it has to be clean.

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] Let’s go.

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] For more than a month we've been watching over the suspect, Jimmy Aussa. Like what time he leaves the house; what time he sells drugs; what time he gets drunk; what time he takes his gun out —s tuff like that.

We know the effect meth has on them; it makes them commit crime. So we need to put an end to his wrongdoing.

January 19, 2018

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] When we get the subject, secure right away, search the house; get in and then get out. And then the entrance on the lower floor, they have stairs going up. There is a possibility he will run to the roof.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] And you have to be fast so he won't be able to react. But then what's important is maybe your trigger discipline, yes? Remember finger discipline —e specially you guys. I know we are heavily armed, but finger discipline for all you. Let's avoid any accidents. That's all.

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] Why is this happening, sir? Why are you doing this?

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Branch 127 of Caloocan released a search warrant for Jimmy Aussa. There’s a gun.

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] A gun?

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] A gun?

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] I don't have one!

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] How could we have a gun? We don't have a gun! I said no. We don’t have a gun!

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Can you calm down?

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] I'm calm, already!

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Calm down. Shut up.

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] I don’t know anything about that! F--- you!

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] I can't breathe anymore!

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] How can there be a gun there?

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] I don't have one!

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] How can there be a gun there? There isn't any —

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] You have a right to remain silent. Just keep quiet for now.

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] My husband is just an ice cube seller. How can he have a gun? You are all liars. Don't do this to us, please. We are just poor people!

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

What's this? So many paraphernalias. So many, so many. What's this? Jimmy? Oh, what's that?

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] I swear on our lives, that's not ours.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] A lot?

MALE POLICE OFFICER 2:

[Speaking Filipino] Yes, look.

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] That's not ours!

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] I just need to do the inventory, sir.

WILL CABRALES:

[Speaking Filipino] You need the witnesses, right?

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] You liars.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Stop crying. Pray for your husband instead.

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] It's not even my house, sir! This is the lady's house!

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Come on, let's go.

FEMALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] You are all liars! Don't do this to us, please!

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] You know what, Jim? I hope by now you realize that it's time to stop using drugs, yes? There's nothing good about it.

JIMMY AUSSA:

[Speaking Filipino] I'm not the one.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] As President Duterte says, "If you're a user, you're a pusher." What we would rather want is to instill discipline in everyone. That's all I ever wanted, Jim.

Jimmy Aussa is charged with possession of crystal meth and a gun and taken to jail.

Caloocan District Jail

Since the start of the drug war, more than 100,000 suspects have been arrested.

Many have been jailed for years awaiting trial.

JAKE, Police officer:

[Speaking Filipino] Because you were in possession of illegal drugs, if you surrender to the six-month program, you confess and plead guilty, you will get a maximum of six months. But if you don’t confess and you want to defend your case and you lose, you can be jailed for 20 years. Right? You will confess? Right? Too bad for your kids.

Next time, just don’t use. This is for your own good.

[Speaking English] I saw him with less than 10 grams of marijuana.

[Speaking Filipino] Drug users are a nuisance for society. Unless you get rid of a pest, it will get bigger. The prison is getting full up with them.

You've got some new pals over there.

Sergeant Adolfo Agustin

Jail Warden, Caloocan Police

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] Faster.

SGT. ADOLFO AGUSTIN, Jail Warden, Caloocan Police:

[Speaking Filipino] Faster, you slow son of a bitch. Come on, come on. It may hurt you deep inside that it's like this, but this is the truth. This is what happens in prison.

One more time. Again.

Yes, I hurt the detainees. I give them punishments.

Again.

If you don’t spank a child, he will not obey you. In prison you need to act like a gangster.

The number of inmates here could reach 150. But we can’t be exact because every day someone new gets locked up. Today the weather is good, but tomorrow a storm is coming.

ORLY FERNANDEZ, Manager, Eusebio Funeral Services:

[Speaking Filipino] Humans are just like chickens.

Orly Fernandez

Manager, Eusebio Funeral Services

ORLY FERNANDEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] When you get shot in the head you die right away. Sometimes when you arrive you will just see them there, lying on their back, blood all around the head. I've dealt with so many who died because of drugs; drugs make them sick in their head.

My job here is to retrieve dead bodies, the victims of the drug war.

It's not President Duterte's fault they got killed.

Our business these days is very slow, but people are really scared it's going to be bloody again. The number of bodies will go up.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

Remember that the drug situation is still very, very alive and vicious. When I became president I said, “Do not destroy the Philippines. Do not do drugs and kill our children because I will kill you.” So what is wrong with that?

In early 2018, Duterte says that the drug problem is getting worse again.

He calls for a renewed crackdown.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] Addicts who are not in their right mind are causing stabbings and shootings. It’s the devil’s work.

[Speaking English] Now the president is very eager with regard to his drive against drug, drug war.

MALE PHOTOGRAPHER:

[Speaking Filipino] Sir, give us a smile.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

If you want to be a good leader —

MALE SPEAKER:

Duterte, Duterte!

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

—y ou must be a good follower.

The approach of the president, there were a lot of, you know, comments that it’s somewhat harsh, but, you know, we do sometimes need to have a strong hand also, because drugs is the evil of all the evils.

In the six months since Modequillo took charge, there have been only two reports of police shootings in Caloocan.

But he says he is under increasing pressure to stop rising drug crime.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] No doubt, Chief Modequillo is a good leader. He tightly controls what his men do now. He is known as "Mananabas." "Mananabas" is the person holding a scythe. If you are a “Mananabas,” then you cut off heads; you’re an executioner. Like that.

Captain Octavio Deimos

SWAT Unit Leader

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] If he is mad about a crime and the criminal resists, he must die.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

Mananabas!

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] [Laughs] That’s what I heard about him.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] He has killed many already. He has killed many already.

In March 2018, a wave of shootings begins in Caloocan and the surrounding area.

MALE NEWSREADER:

[Speaking Filipino] A man died after getting shot. The victim was found lying beside his bicycle. According to a resident, they heard gunshots before they saw the dead man in the street. The victim was identified as Jonathan Sevilla, a noodle soup vendor. His family came shouting and crying to the crime scene.

ORLY FERNANDEZ:

[Speaking Filipino]

MALE NEWSREADER:

[Speaking Filipino] The police are now searching for the gunman and are investigating if this is a drug-related case.

LOREMIE SEVILLA:

[Speaking Filipino] I just really pity my brother. He got lost. He lost his way. I knew he was a user. His daughter saw it on TV, and it was bloody.

Loremie Sevilla

LOREMIE SEVILLA:

[Speaking Filipino] Of course I get angry; I cry all the time. They just killed my brother like an animal.

Jonathan was lying on the ground covered in blood, eyes wide open. I believe that the police ordered the killing of my brother; I think it was them who gave the order.

Jonathan, we miss you so much; you know how much we love you. It’s a shock that this happened to you. Your children always say your name. We love you very much.

There is no justice here; if you are poor, you don't get justice. The police ordered the killing of my brother.

Throughout March 2018, the body count in Caloocan rises.

Residents suspect the police are running secret death squads.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

Police, just do your duty. Just follow my instructions and you do not have anything to worry; I will protect you. Murder and homicide or whatever, unlawful killing, is not allowed. Your duty requires you to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting. If he resists, and it is a violent one, placing in jeopardy the lives of my policemen , you are free to kill the idiots. That is my order to you.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Have you seen any drugs here? Well?

Put your hands up.

MALE POLICE OFFICER 2:

This one!

[Speaking Filipino] Sir, this is meth, and this is a pipe.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

[Speaking Filipino] Taxi bike driver Marlon Valiza was sleeping when an unknown suspect shot him just before midnight. The police are looking at illegal drugs as the motive for the murder.

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] They were on a motorbike.

MALE SPEAKER 2:

[Speaking Filipino] How many suspects, sir?

MALE SPEAKER:

[Speaking Filipino] Two.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

[Speaking Filipino] Valiza had previously surrendered to the drugs watchlist.

There was also another shooting incident almost at the same time; gunmen on a motorbike shot a 17-year-old dead, but the police are still investigating the motive for the crime.

FUJI:

[Speaking Filipino] There are some decent cops but most of them are, you know?

AXEL MARTINEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] They’re a--holes. Those cops are a--holes. They act like bullies around here, like they can do anything they want.

FUJI:

[Speaking Filipino] They try to scare us as if they own the streets. They haven't changed. They still shoot people like pigs. You can see in front of the police station the cops are now using motorbikes with no plate numbers; that’s how they're killing now.

AXEL MARTINEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] They are the real criminals, but they know they can get away with it because the president has their backs.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] Stand up. Come closer. Don’t be afraid. How old are you?

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] He asked how old you are. Fourteen.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] And you?

MALE TEENAGER:

[Speaking Filipino] Thirteen, sir.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

[Speaking Filipino] Have you seen the news? Dead bodies all over the place. People say we are just casually killing.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

[Speaking Filipino] Get out of here.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Drug dealers, drug users, the problem of the nation; t hose are usually the victims of the shooting.

JAMES JONES, Interviewer:

Lots of the shootings, they seem very professional.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Yes.

 

JAMES JONES:

You can understand why people might think it was the police?

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Yes. The people might think that it was a — or it was done by some police officers, but actually it was not.

The police kill when they fight back. [Laughs] If the police do it, it will — it is legitimate because we the police are law enforcers, so what we are just doing is to enforce the law.

President Duterte really hates drugs. A drug addict or drug pusher, that kind of person has no place already here; that’s their choice. They don’t want to live anymore. They want to live in hell already. [Laughs] They choose to transfer, to reassign in hell.

After the camera was turned off, Captain Deimos continued the interview with only the audio recording.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

I heard that most of the shooting incidents here in south was in the way of what you have said.

JAMES JONES:

It was the police?

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Some said about that.

JAMES JONES:

That the police are doing the shootings?

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Yes.

 

JAMES JONES:

Other police officers said that?

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

Yes, other police officers.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] How do we handle a place that’s full of crime? We now have 18,000 watchlist surrenderees. What are we going to do with 18,000 drug watchlist surrenderees? Are we going to kill them? No, they are human beings, but if they are stubborn, then we will kill them. Am I right? [Laughs] It seems like you are all anti-life. You’re all just like me. [Laughs]

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

These drug dealers know fully well the consequences of their criminal acts. The war against illegal drugs is far from over.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Almost every day dead bodies are being recovered from the streets in Manila. On this occasion, a tricycle taxi driver who was shot in the head.

AXEL MARTINEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] The night before, my father was riding his taxi bike. He felt that someone was following him.

I was in the house; he was waiting for passengers. My brother was next to him on the bike when the two guys on a motorbike arrived. I heard two gunshots and then I ran to my dad.

When I got there he was still moving. He was lying down but he was spitting out blood; he was forcing himself to move. He was covered in blood. His face was lifeless. He was shot in the jaw and in the chest; he wasn’t able to say anything. I told him to wake up and not to leave us.

I just kept on telling him to wake up, to fight, be strong and not to leave us, keep moving until we get to the hospital. I thought maybe he could be saved.

Axel’s father, Arnold, was one of 12 people killed by masked gunmen in Caloocan in March 2018.

He was on the police list of drug suspects.

ORLY FERNANDEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] It’s sad when people die because of drugs, but business is good now. That’s life. Business is booming.

AXEL MARTINEZ:

[Speaking Filipino] My dad stopped using drugs after Duterte became president. He was on the drug watchlist, but he surrendered. The killer could have been working with the police, so we know he won't be caught. The police act like a death squad.

FUJIKO:

[Speaking Filipino] It comes from the president, of course. The president tells his policemen that these drug users are just pests, and then they just follow their orders. I want justice.

MALE PROTEST SPEAKER [shouting]:

President Duterte, you consciously and deliberately put in place a permission structure for mass murder, and in due time you will be held accountable for the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

[Speaking Filipino] For this Duterte must pay! Fight for our rights! Fight for our rights! Fight for our rights! Fight for our rights!

The war on drugs is clearly a war on the poor. He kills the most vulnerable. The death squads continue to grow. Killings have become normal.

CAJIPE :

[Speaking Filipino] The shooting incidents might have caught up with us, sir.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

Huh?

CAJIPE:

[Speaking Filipino] The shooting incidents might have caught up with us.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

[Speaking Filipino] [Laughs] Never mind, that’s life.

JAMES JONES:

Those shootings, they seem quite professional. Can you understand why people think it’s maybe police or connected to police?

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

You know, there are a lot of people, they are thinking that police are involved with that, but no, we are — we’re not after for the life of these people.

In Caloocan we have 1,000 police there. I cannot see all of them. There is always a black sheep.

JAMES JONES:

Some of the police in Caloocan told us that some of those shootings were done by police. Are those just black sheep, or do you think that comes from above?

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

I do not know because, you know, sometimes, there are incidents that are still under investigation. All the killings or all the incidents that is happening actually are all under investigation.

JAMES JONES:

Was that something that you had heard, that maybe it was police from the district who had carried out those shootings?

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

I do not know, I do not know. I do not have any comment for that. But what is important is the investigation is rolling.

Sources within the investigation later told FRONTLINE that some of the shootings in March had the "hallmarks" of police involvement.

OCTAVIO DEIMOS:

"Shootings get Caloocan top cop fired. Relief prompted by series of unsolved incidents in city. More than six months after he promised to keep Caloocan city less bloody, Senior Superintendent Jemar Modequillo was fired from his post effective on Monday for failing to solve over half of shootings which happened during his watch."

[Speaking Filipino] So that’s it.

JEMAR MODEQUILLO:

Our Lord makes a lot of sacrifices to save people. So we are not actually God. No one is perfect, and we are all sinners. We have sometimes to repent. But it’s somewhat like unfair to me. Being a good soldier, we must be a good follower. We have to follow. We have to follow.

[Speaking Filipino] I was just doing my job.

No one has been charged with the killing of Axel's father, Arnold Martinez.

The police eventually charged a local man with the murder of Loremie’s brother, Jonathan Sevilla.

The International Criminal Court has begun a preliminary examination of President Duterte and the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE:

What are your sins?

[Speaking Filipino] My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.

[Speaking English] The drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began.

Shortly before broadcast, President Duterte’s spokesman issued a statement in response to this film:

“The Palace is vexed by the continuous spread of disinformation against our country’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality...”

“Drug-related killings are absolutely not state-initiated or state-sponsored. These killings result from violent resistance on the part of those sought to be arrested by police agents...”

“The president, as strict enforcer of the law, does not tolerate abusive police officers....those who abuse their authority will have hell to pay.”

55m
2107_TN_01_CLEAN
In Search of Al Qaeda
FRONTLINE follows the trail of Al Qaeda fighters — from the borderlands of Pakistan, across the Gulf of Oman, to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
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