NYT wins Pulitzer Prize for PH drug war report

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 11) — A freelance photojournalist's reportage on the Philippines' war on drugs won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.

The winner was announced Tuesday on the Pulitzer Prize website and Twitter account.

Daniel Berehulak's multimedia report titled "They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals" and published on December 7, 2016 in the New York Times, documented the deaths of 57 homicide victims during his month-long stay in the Philippines last year.

The Pulitzer Prize website cited the powerful storytelling showing "the callous disregard for human life" in the Philippine government's campaign against drug dealers and users.

In his story on the war on drugs, Berehulak, who has covered wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, recounted what he considered a brutal anti-drug campaign.

"What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers' summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes' taking seriously Mr. Duterte's call to 'slaughter them all,'" he said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on December 9, 2016, he said it was necessary to convey the effects of the drug war on people.

"I think it's important to show the reality of what's happening wherever we are and if it's-- sometimes it is graphic, and I think it's important for people to see what's happening and see the effects that this is having on local communities," he said.

Along with the recognition, Berehulak receives $15,000. This is Berehulak's second Pulitzer, after his coverage of the West Africa Ebola epidemic won the award for Feature Photography in 2015.

Official Philippine National Police (PNP) statistics show around 2,500 drug suspects were killed, over 53,000 arrested and nearly 1.2 million surrendered in the first six months of the government's anti-drug campaign.

As of March 2017, the PNP noted over 6,000 deaths are under investigation, with more than 1,300 deaths related to illegal drugs.  

READ: Duterte: 'Vigilantes are real'

In a statement on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Palace respects the Pulitzer Prize board's decision despite the story's critical view of the government's campaign against illegal drugs.

"The Western press has been highly critical of the Duterte administration's campaign against illegal drug traffickers and violators. The Pulitzer Prize Board has its own criteria and selection process and we respect their decision on this matter," he said.