Reuters bags Pulitzer for Philippines’ drug war story

Noel Celis / AFP/Getty Images

By Christina Mendez & Paolo Romero/The Philippine Star- A Filipino was among the Reuters journalists who received this year’s Pulitzer Prize for the news agency’s “relentless” reporting on the thousands killed in the war on drugs of the Duterte administration.

Manuel Mogato, a correspondent in Reuters’ Manila bureau, along with Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall won in the International Reporting category with its series: “Duterte’s War.”

Mogato, Baldwin and Marshall were cited for their “relentless reporting that exposed the brutal killing campaign behind Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.”

The three were among 14 journalists from around the globe who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Seven other individuals won in the letters, drama and music categories.

Mogato is the third Filipino to win the prestigious award. Jose Antonio Vargas bagged the award in 2008 as a member of the Washington Post team that reported on the Virginia Tech shooting.

Carlos P. Romulo received the Pulitzer Prize in 1942 for his reporting on developments in the Far East as a correspondent of the Philippine Herald.

Baldwin, who previously wrote for several newspapers in the US, is a special correspondent for Reuters who has investigated the Philippine drug war since it began in June 2016 and is a recipient of other journalism awards.

Marshall is Southeast Asia special correspondent for Reuters and received the same award in 2014 for reporting on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

‘Who is doing all these?’

Mogato said this was the burning question in the mind of the team in coming up with the series that started shortly before Duterte won the elections in 2016.

He said sometime in April 2016 he was able to interview a market vendor whose four sons were killed by vigilantes believed to be taking orders from Duterte on suspicion of their involvement in illegal drugs.
Mogato said the mother expressed fears that if Duterte wins, the killings will be replicated nationwide.

“So we kept asking: ‘Who’s doing all these (killings)? Who’s behind these?’” Mogato told The STAR.

“The reports took a lot of time, effort and resources because all those in the government concerned have the right of reply,” he said.

Mogato said the drafts were reviewed by Reuters editors and lawyers in London and New York.

In a television interview, Mogato said among their sources was a retired police general, who in turn introduced them to policemen who described how the crime scenes were staged.

Mogato, who has been subjected to threats because of the report, asked his fellow journalists not to give up pursuing the truth.

“Continue persevering, don’t let go. Do you think evil will triumph over good? In the end, something good will happen,” he said.

Malacañang congratulated Mogato but maintained Duterte’s drug war is a legitimate government operation.

“Definitely, I’d have to congratulate Manuel Mogato but the fact remains that the policy of the President on the drug war is that the drug war is legitimate, it is intended to protect the youth from the ill-effects of drugs,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.

Duterte has been critical of human rights groups and even media firms exposing the killings.

“Number two, that killings committed by state authorities, for as long as they are legal, will be defended by the state,” Roque said.

Roque maintained the government is not tolerating rogues in the police force, including those who abuse their authority. He cited the case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, a student killed by police officers during a supposed shootout.

“As in the case of Kian delos Santos, if the killings are contrary to law and not justified, we will cause the criminal prosecution of the policemen concerned,” he added.

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