Since Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stand down from the drugs war last month, after declaring the force "rotten to the core", the drugs trade has come back out of the shadows, more than half a dozen drug users and dealers in some of Manila's toughest areas said in interviews.
Many spoke on condition that only their first names be used in this story. Beside one of the less-used railroad tracks in Manila - a grassy area scattered with human excrement only a few miles from the gleaming high-rises of the Makati business district - shabu was easily available last week, costing just a few pesos (cents) per hit.
Residents said that when they traveled on the illegal trolleys that ferry people for a few pesos along the track when there are no trains in sight, a fellow passenger will often offer them a sachet of the drug.
Eusebio, 52, who pushes a wood and bamboo trolley on the track for a living, said dealers sometimes walk alongside calling out: "How much are you going to buy?" "Now that the operations have been suspended, drugs have become rampant again," he said.
"Those who were hiding have resurfaced." Another trolley-pusher, Boyser, 59, told two Reuters journalists: "If you weren't reporters, they would offer you drugs."
"All the users are still users, except those who have been killed," he said, adding that he has used shabu for almost two decades. More than 8,000 people have been killed since Duterte was sworn in almost eight months ago, about 2,500 of whom were killed in official police anti-narcotics operations.
Human rights groups believe many of the others were extra-judicial executions committed as part of the war on drugs, and in cooperation with the police – a claim the Duterte administration has vehemently denied. The president's office did not respond to a list of emailed questions about the drugs war and whether dealers were now openly back on the streets.
Duterte has repeatedly said he will hunt down drug lords and other "high value" targets and to date, there have been a handful of large-scale seizures and raids on shabu laboratories.
But most of those killed in the war on drugs have been small-time dealers and users in some of the country's poorest neighborhoods. The PNP stopped publishing an official tally of drug war killings from police operations on Jan. 31 when Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take over the campaign.