Funeral parlour workers carry a body out of a house in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. According to police and witnesses, masked gunmen killed five people inside a house that is allegedly known as a drug den. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: Thousands of policemen were unobtrusive as they quietly eyed drug pushers and users among millions who honoured their dead in cemeteries in Metro Manila. But policemen wore masks and Halloween costume and displayed funeral cars in provincial cemeteries where they convinced drug users to surrender for drug rehabilitation, NCRPO director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde said.

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) ordered 7,740 policemen to “quietly watch out” for illegal drug activities among those who are honouring their dead in 99 cemeteries in Metro Manila, Albayalde said.

“We did not deploy NCRPO’ anti-drug operatives to the cemeteries, but those who were posted in cemeteries knew what to do — arrest suspected drug users,” said Albayalde, adding that policemen were assisted by teams from non-government organisations.

Millions of people gathered at cemeteries from Monday to Tuesday, to celebrate the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day from Monday to Tuesday, but the entire Metro Manila looked like a ghost town.

“There was no traffic on major thoroughfares. Metro Manila looked sad,” said commuter Joselin Cruz who was at suburban Marikina’s Loyola Cemetery where she lighted candles for her departed mother.

She did not join more than three-fourths of Metro Manila’s 10 million residents who had gone to the provinces since Friday, for the long holiday that would end on Wednesday.

Commuters from Metro Manila filled up about 4,600 city buses and 8,000 provincial buses that plied for the provinces, said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), adding that special permits were still given to 1,732 more units for 625 operators to serve more commuters from Metro Manila over the weekend.

As expected, policemen wore Halloween costume as they searched for drug pushers and users in crowded cemeteries in the provinces.

Policemen that secured 152 cemeteries in Cebu, central Philippines campaigned against the use of shabu and other illegal substances, Senior Supt. Eric Noble, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) told Sun Star.

A hearse was displayed in each of the gates of the cemeteries, to underline the drug menace in the Philippines, Noble said, adding that policemen called out to drug users to surrender for rehabilitation.

They wore masks as they distributed a list of items banned inside the cemetery Urdaneta Cemetery in Pangasinan, central Luzon, Police Senior Inspector Ria Tacderan of Urdaneta PNP’s public information office said on radio.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drug has killed thousands since July.

Illegal drug trade reached $8.4 billion a year in 2013, authorities said.