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Carnage in the Phillippines

with 8 comments


These days we are bombarded with so many photos and images that rare is an piece of photojournalism that stops you in your tracks. Today’s frontpage of New York Times 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.



Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

December 8, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Politics

8 Responses

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  1. […] via — Iconic Photos […]

  2. there are more photos in the on-line story, very very disturbing but must be seen: http://nyti.ms/2gSDf0T


    December 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm

  3. I… I have lived and worked in the Philippines. If you want to reflect on the arc of history tending toward justice, know also that for the killings (about 1/2 of which are likely to have happened anyway under the usual police operations in the Philippines) Duterte has/in the process of making peace with the MLF and NPA; reinstitute the agrarian reform distribution program; much more stringently enforcing mining regulations; was physically present after Haiyan distributing aid..
    Not condoning the killings. But, he’s not all bad. The media has constructed a very one dimensional view, whereas for a country that has lived under oligarchs for decades, he’s.. well, murderous, but murderous on the side of the poor. While is, in and of itself, not a bad thing.


    December 8, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    • That feels damning with faint phrase, like saying, “Well, Mussolini made the trains run on time.”

      Jenny Mingus

      December 17, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      • peace with two armies that your country has been locked in a civil war with for decades is rather more of an accomplishment than getting the trains to run on time.


        December 18, 2016 at 12:44 am

  4. Good call.
    This is the most beautiful disgusting photo essay I’ve ever seen.
    The absolute brilliance and hyper-realism of the pictures (and colours) is in stark contrast to what is actually being documented.

    Dwight Bandy

    December 9, 2016 at 5:47 am

  5. Sad, vivid and disturbing photo essay of a dark reality in the Philippines.


    December 9, 2016 at 10:57 am

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