More than 27,000 dead: This is the result of a two-year war on drugs in the Philippines. In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte became the President of the Southeast Asian republic. His campaign promised him to win the election: He threatened those connected to drug consumption and sales with the death penalty, called for vigilante justice and allowed the police to act with brutality under complete impunity. As President, Duterte has likened himself to Hitler and vowed to massacre millions of drug users. Dealers and users were murdered, as well as countless innocents and children – mostly the poor. An estimated 30 people are killed each day across the country. The United Nations appealed in vain to the Philippine government to investigate extrajudicial killings and to prosecute the perpetrators, while the International Criminal Court has begun preliminary examinations into these alleged crimes against humanity. The war continues however.
This photo reportage hopes to illuminate both the violent acts carried out in the Philippines as well as the questionable methods of Duterte and the police. With thousands dead in two years and with four years left in Duterte’s term, it has become more crucial than ever to record these atrocities.
Ezra Acayan is a documentary photographer based in Manila whose work primarily focuses on social issues and human rights. Currently, he is working on documentary reportage on the suffering and abuse experienced by communities under the Philippine government’s war on drugs.
In 2017, together with a team of Reuters journalists, he was awarded a special merit at the Human Rights Press Awards for multimedia reporting on the Philippine Drug War. In 2018, he received both the Ian Parry Scholarship Award for Achievement and the Lucie Foundation Photo Taken Emerging Scholarship, was named Young Photographer of the Year at the Istanbul Photo Awards.
This work – along with work by other journalists who cover the Philippine Drug War – has been exhibited in Geneva for two years as part of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the United Nations Human Rights Council. It has also been exhibited at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand (FCCT), at the Prix-Bayeux Calvados Award for War Correspondents in France, at the WARM Festival in Sarajevo, and at the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism in Germany.
Ezra Acayan has completed multimedia work for various organisations such as Reuters, European Pressphoto Agency, Agence France-Presse, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and the French Society magazine. He has also worked for NGOs such as Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Care International, and the French Red Cross. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Vice, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Le Monde, Stern, Paris Match, and more.
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