They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals by Daniel Berehulak, 2016

These days we are bombarded with so many photos and images that rare is an piece of photojournalism that stops you in your tracks. The frontpage of New York Times on December 8, 2016 is one of those rare moments. Daniel Berehulak took photos and wrote about his 35 days in Manila, the Philippines where he covered 41 murder scenes — and 57 bodies.

When thuggish Rodrigo Duterte was elected president in the Philippines in June, he vowed to kill millions of people in a war on drugs to rid the country of drugs. He had urged his citizens to kill suspected criminals and drug addicts, and asked the police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy (with a bounty for dead suspects). Already, his misguided war has claimed thousands of lives, including nearly 2,000 reportedly killed by Philippine police in extra-judicial killings. In vigilante excess, even those who have ‘surrendered’ — i.e., those who have stopped using or selling drugs months ago — were murdered.

Berehulak’s assignment saw bodies, carnage, and extrajudicial killings everywhere, “on sidewalks, near train tracks, in front of convenience stores and McDonald’s restaurants, and across bedroom mattresses and living room sofas”. Police goes undercover to catch drug dealers in “buy-bust” operations, and would enter people’s homes without warrants to shoot and kill suspects. In a chilling response to Reuters inquiry, the Fillippino government noted that “we have only scratched the surface” when it comes to the Drug War. [Listen to Berehulak here]

It is hard to write about modern politics on Iconic Photos. We have covered many gruesome photos on this website — from the Belgian Congo to the Holocaust, from famines and nuclear meltdowns — but we cover them knowing that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. No such satisfaction here. The carnage in the Philippines will go on; as Duterte himself claimed, “Expect 20,000 or 30,000 more” killings, and he has been emboldened by the support from the American president-elect.

Berehulak won a Pulitzer for his photos.

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