You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Aussie man tells of Philippine drug war

AAP logoAAP 9/10/2016 Lauren Farrow

Australian man Damian Berg has learnt first hand what it feels like to be a victim of the Philippine's bloody war on drugs, locked up and put on trial for a crime he didn't commit.

"In a split second, my life was gone. I was taken away from my pregnant girlfriend, I lost my job," Mr Berg told AAP in his first interview since his acquittal.

The 35-year-old from Adelaide has spent his first weekend back in Australia - months after he was arrested on June 20.

Just weeks before Mr Berg was locked up, Rodrigo Duterte - aka "the Punisher" - was elected President.

By June's end the country's violent crackdown on drugs began in earnest.

More than 3000 people are estimated to have been killed in police operations and by vigilantes since.

These numbers have new weight for Mr Berg after he watched police officers give sworn evidence in court later shown to be false.

Police alleged Mr Berg - who worked as the commercial manager for engineering company First Balfour in the Philippines - was caught in a street buy-bust operation selling 50 ecstasy tablets to Canadian man Jeremy Eaton on the night of June 20 in Makati City.

What CCTV showed was that Mr Berg was not arrested in a sting on the street but at the nearby Red Planet Hotel, where police stormed into his room, guns drawn, while he was working.

Initially, Mr Berg said he didn't know they were police or why Eaton was there.

"I thought it was some kind of robbery."

Bewildered and in a state of shock, Mr Berg was hauled in front of the press and then locked in a police holding cell where he slept curled-up on the floor with 15 others for a month.

He was later transferred to "horrible" Makati City Jail where prisoners mete out punishment in public beatings of inmates.

Mr Berg was acquitted on September 15, the court finding the CCTV "belied the claim of the prosecution ... and destroyed the integrity of their testimonies".

But he still doesn't know why police burst into his life.

"I have thought about this every night, especially when I was incarcerated. I still don't know what happened," he said.

"How are you meant to believe that all these people who are being killed in buy-busts are guilty of drug dealing when they completely fabricated this whole thing against me?"

Since his acquittal Mr Berg said he has received threatening text messages from unknown phone numbers.

Mr Berg once saw the Philippines as home, but on Friday he and his partner Marvie Torreon moved to Australia where their son is expected to be born next month.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon