We are being imaged as a slaughterhouse



THE images from Aleppo in Syria are just too horrifying. Children maimed, hospitals bombed, people dying. What we have there is a government killing its own people simply because of what they are.

We have seen so many like these in distant and recent history, in Armenia, in Rwanda, in Nazi Germany, in Bosnia. There, people were killed not for their political beliefs, but simply for their religion, their ethnicity, of who they were.

It is difficult not to recoil in disbelief, therefore, when the New York Times, in a piece of photographic journalism, with a write-up even translated into Filipino for maximum effect and echoed in an editorial piece, has painted our country as a place where people are slaughtered like animals.

A foreigner friend reminded me when I protested that the headline was simply restating President Duterte’s threat that he will slaughter drug addicts.

Perhaps we can blame the President for his exaggerations, and his hyperboles.

But the job of a journalist is to go beyond the speech of the President, and to scour all sides of the narrative that journalism wants to use as capital to write a story. A journalist should not just rely on the verbosity of the President, and then look for the story that would affirm whatever politics or biases that the story will nurture or feed.

Many people have been crying out for justice, and due process. But to achieve these, one has to give all narratives a fair hearing, and an equal opportunity to be imaged, and if so, such must be captioned authentically and truthfully. After all, it is not just about selling news.

But the business of imaging political regimes is no longer just about journalism, or truth-telling. It is now embedded in the whole enterprise of supporting or undermining regimes. And in the process, authenticity and truth fall victim to power and politics.

No one is denying the incidence of drug killings. Statistics show they exist.

But the real issue is how drug killings are represented.

Primarily, they are painted as drug addicts being felled by bullets of “ridings in tandem,” sprawled in their own blood in some dark corner. They are seen in bodies wrapped in duct tape in some grassy corner. They exist in coffins with wailing widows and orphaned children. All images are of people being painted as victims of the President’s drug war.

The New York Times was even bold enough to point out that while the President may not have had a direct hand in the killings, he would have supported these. This is the real politics of the images that are used to paint a country that has become an abattoir, where people are slaughtered like animals by a President who commands their murder.

However, drug killings also exist in a different narrative.

We also see them in a young student who was brutally stabbed to death by another minor who is addicted to shabu. We see them in the body of a 13-year-old who was raped, and whose head was smashed by a drug-crazed tricycle driver. We see them in the bodies of a family massacred inside their supposedly secure home by drug-crazed thieves.

Yet media does not image these as drug killings. They are simply considered crime stories. The image of their coffins and their wailing relatives will never be featured in the New York Times, bannered as compelling narratives of slaughter for which previous governments’ inaction could be condemned.

The hand of Rodrigo Roa Duterte in this war against drugs is being indicted in the slaughter of drug addicts. Yet nobody dared to image Benigno S. Aquino III as the hand that played video games as his citizens were being slaughtered like animals by drug addicts.

This is the deadly virus that infects this whole enterprise of reporting violence and human rights abuses. They are no longer about reporting truth and facts, but are now embedded in an industry of either destroying or propping up a political leader.

Hence, you leave in it a citizenry that is confused as to why media and human rights activists seem to be more concerned about the rights of those who chose a path of crime, and not about the rights of those innocent citizens who were victimized.

Killing is always condemnable, and without justification. But it becomes extremely difficult for someone who is victimized, or felt threatened by drug-related criminality, to even hear the argument that even criminals have rights too, if what they see in media, and what is being fought for by human rights advocates in congressional hearings and street protests, are images that cry out and lament the deaths of the criminal, but never of their loved ones.

Thus, in one sensational story and editorial, the New York Times has further made it difficult for human rights activists in the country to make their argument.



Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. Of course because we hold the police to a higher standard of behavior than gangs. Surprised contreras missed this obvious truth. Human rights advocates will go after erring police specifically because they are in power not because they dont care about the victims of common criminals.

  2. Obama the queer homosex maniac,create ISIS that kill innocent Christian and Muslim alike withou mercy, that why he was mad of Russian destroying it…….In the Philippines Obama create tention if possible war in Southern Western Philippine Sea as The Philippines is pawn if that happen happen the US will destroy China in War……..You know Obama wants WAR…….Because if the US win the war the National Of US Debts of 7 Trillion will be gone too because the US will not pay the DEBTS to China………..War with China is the only option to wipe out the US 7 Trillion Dollar National Debts to China………

  3. I commend the writer for this article. Except that I can’t believe that he fall for the black propaganda that the International media is peddling that the Syrian Government is killing his own people. What an irony because he was talking here of how the international media is accusing the President of manslaughter and with which he knows very well that is all but a blatant lie and false. The US and its allies are the ones killing the Syrian using the ISIL and the Syrian government with the help of Russia (upon invitation of the Syrian Government) is helping curb out the rebellion. Anyway, I don’t believe that in spite of all the black propaganda against the President, the Yellow will succeed because the Filipino people all over the world are supportive to the President. You can see for instance in the interview of Leila Delima by the CNN International were riddled with negative comments calling on CNN to stop portraying the President in a negative manner and that Delima is a crook senator by protecting the drug lords in our country.

  4. I don’t know Contreras so I am not going to talk about him but only what he wrote. It seems he wants us to understand correct journalism and mistakes journalists make but he forgets the issue – Puppeteer Duterte’s Puppet Show of making the country a slaughterhouse of his own design, patterned after his DDS which made different impressions, good and bad, on the observers and listeners, on human rights advocates and enemies, here in RP and abroad.

    The common citizen in me cannot help deplore 6,000 killings and counting that happened in PDu30’s 5 months’ watch. I will not try to compare it to Pnoy’s watch or anyone else’s. I will judge it by its merits and demerits in the context of today’s realities relative to the Filipinos pursuit for a good life in peace and good order.

    Many are appalled by the blatant disregard for due process and the selective manner of executing suspects. I fully sympathize with them because in my ignorance there is no other way to look at it. Forgive me. Duterte’s good goals for the nation may be achieved by such heinous terrorism but it does not register with me, no matter how much I try, as the right way to do it. I completely detest it as I sense the cruelties it inflects upon the victims’ families and the troubling disturbance it bears upon the peaceful life of those in communities where suspected drug lords, traders and users live.

    It is a war, he insists, whether we like it or not. An unfair imposition, really that the people didn’t call; a direct affront to human rights and the law of the land. It is an unjust war to his innocent people that has influenced the many malleable youth into doing justice the EJK way. I have personal knowledge how 3 young MC riders chased my 21 year old granddaughter in her Vios car because they thought she committed a grave wrong by making two beeping warning signals to them who dangerously cut in in front of her causing a near collision. The leader took issues with her on that and as she passed them they gave chase screaming bloody murder for the warning beeps given to them. When they finally caught up with her they blocked her path three times as she attempted to get away from being murdered, remembering with full fright that practically all EJK were done by MC riding killers. These boys had the audacity to do their ugliness in front of the Barangay Hall where my granddaughter finally thought she would get refuge and relief but in vain as the bgy police just looked and did nothing as the influential gang leader, a step son of a 2016 retired intelligence PNP, assaulted her with verbal abuse and damage to her car with impunity, all because she made two warning beep-beep at him!!! The bgy chief tanod did not try to detain or attest him. He just let him be and loose and probably forgiven. My God!

    The assaulting youth to her and her family appears to be no other than PDu30 riding in his patrol MC as he roamed his Davao looking for criminals to kill. This is a bad case of irresponsibly modeling to influence the youth. And what about the 4,500 killings that the PNP said it had nothing to do? Who influenced or practically emboldened them to commit murder?

    UNDER Du30’s WATCH they happened and who is responsible? Not Pnoy, Mr. Contreras. Not his watch remember?

    Even if he is innocent of the murder of these 4,500 suspects, he should have done his preventive work. Not having done it and worse inspiring it, makes him the virtual author or mastermind of the criminals who did them in. Since it is continuing with no let up, he has to be perceived by the likes of me and my family, as consenting and ultimately responsible.

    Something ought to be done to stop it. We find it difficult to do it ourselves, that is why we feel very happy when the UN, USA, EU and other nations of the right human rights make up volunteered to help us. Thank you NY Times.

    We are not helpless says some friends of Pdu30 so we can’t go yell help to foreign sympathizers who see the unjustness of the EJK going on unabated and with impunity. I don’t know how to justify such arguments.

    Our deep helplessness may not be appreciated or seen as bad as we do, but just take this as a measure of how bad it is: Anything that the Midas Du30 touches and does, good or bad, the people CHEER him. When he does a good deed, the people CHEER in delight; when he admits killing himself and the EJK tally goes up, they CHEER him. When he curses anyone, Obama, the Pope, EU and the UN, the people CHEER him. When he badmouths the USA and threatens to cease all treaties they CHEER him. When he demeans women and tells them that he should be the first to rape a beautiful foreigner prisoner, they CHEER him. When he allowed the burial of notorious ousted dictator Marcos, they not only cheer him by demonstrated in support. To me, he is just fooling the people by making them Zombie CHEER him. He fools them almost every day in their faces and they continue to CHEER him!

    My gosh, these zombie CHEERS go on and on and he does nothing about them. What is he trying to do to his now immoral and disrespectful people or trying to prove?

    Oh, sometimes when I try to think like Mr. Contreras, I find myself, the social activist in me, amused and praising him in this way: that he is up to some good. I would say to myself, “He is not making a fool of them. He is merely proving to everyone how they have been fooled into behaving like zombies to his every command. They are not his victims because he has only been around for 5 months. Soon maybe but not yet today. They are victims of all that the bad that have influenced them to act that way before their demagogue Du30. And who are these criminals who have purposely with malicious intent made them the way they are? Ah, the Church and the ministers, the government with its trapos and corrupt officials from the janitor up to the president, the greedy merchants, the illegal trade lords, the police and military on the take, the “friendly” allies whose treaties go mainly one way along their national interests, et al.” then I would feel good about “my” PDu30. But only momentarily as my conscience starts working on me and forcing me to abandon this EJK murderer president of mine.

    Having said that, I believe it is time to go. Hope I was able to share a few good points to consider when we try to paint a picture, rosy or not of our dear President Du30.

    Good day and Merry Xmas, all!


  5. Clearly, enemies of the Duterte government has engaged the services of a PR firm to peddle stories to international media with the objective of destroying Duterte’s image to justify their planned power grab!

  6. With the overwhelming majority of Filipinos approving of the president’s campaign to rid this country of its ills, and since they cannot destroy him effectively from within, his opponents have to pool their resources in destroying his image overseas. These are the same irresponsible leftovers of past leadership who will never stop till they reclaim the power they lost.

  7. Yonkers, New York
    17 December 2016

    If Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte can find the two minutes of his busy daily schedule to read this column of ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS in the Manila Times of December 16, he will probably call to congratulate and thank him profusely on the phone for coming to his rescue as an unpaid MOUTHPIECE and APOLOGIST

    As far as the major Philippine newspapers are concerned, apologists for psychotic Little Tyrant Duterte, who has inflicted a REIGN OF TERROR on the Filipino people, could be counted by one’s fingers–and Mr.Contreras, who happens to be one of them, “sticks out like sore finger.” If he considers himself a journalist–which as a columnist he is not of course!–he is a shame to the Philippines’ Press which has a solid reputation for being FREE, COURAGEOUS, AND INDEPENDENT.


  8. I truly appreciate the Philippine media that would promote the country, but disregard and rise in defense any foreign news that will malign the image of the Philippines. Truly patriotism is a word not known to Philippine media. “Commercialism” is all there ends.

  9. AP Contreras thank you! It’s a boost to the campaign against illegal drugs of President Duterte. Mabuhay po kayo!

  10. CNN trying to destabilize Philippines past few days! good thing no one believes then anymore..case in point, trump win and durerte a warm hearty reception by ASIAN leaders Singapore Japan china etc. imagine if de Lima does get convicted CNN should close for coddling her

  11. People tend to forget that the injustice of this all stems from the basic reality that he who has the money controls everything. The influence of money , dirty or not, is very pervasive especially in poor countries like the Philippines. If you have money, you can buy almost everything. Do poor people have money to tilt the balance in their favor? Life is never fair to people who have less. They always end up with the short stick. And alas, the current government is mostly populated by officials who had a taste of good life through the most unscrupulous means and they are not about to give it up. Duterte is like that mythical Grrek king Sysiphus who is straining to roll the big rock to right things, but as soon as he is about to make progress in rolling the boulder up the hill, the gods (think about the elites or oligarchs) intervene and cause the boulder to roll down the hill. And this happens each time Duterte makes some prgress, there’s always someone who throws a monkey wrench at the slowly well-functioning machine. But the main question in all of this is: What do good men do about it? Are those supposedly decent and good men just stand by and talk all day about it? Are people who detest all that’s happening content in endless discussion and observation and being reduced to squawking, grumbling and posturing till the cows come home? We should all be reminded of that sage who commented that the reason evil triumphs in this world is because good men do nothing.

  12. Why do you suppose the Western press refuses to give the other side of the story of the Syrian War, that it is the American-led West that is bankrolling and arming the terrorists fighting Assad in Syria, which makes the nation that launched the War on Terror ironically the world’s biggest sponsor of it? Because journalism in general is the practice of propaganda. Only when the truth will benefit them will they relentlessly go after it, but they will hide it if it is inconvenient to their official narrative. They unbelievably labeled Boy Sayad a reformist because he is their stooge, so the only way Duterte can put a stop to the bad press he is getting from the West and their local proxies here is for him to get down on his knees and surrender to all their caprices. Why does the West always want us to use the velvet glove of human rights against our enemies when they always use the iron fist against theirs? We have had a Western-backed communist insurgency for the last 40 or so years, a Western-backed separatist armed movement in Mindanao (MILF), do we also now have a Western-backed drive by drug traffickers to turn us into a narco state? What Duterte needs is a combative communications team eager to do battle with the enemy, not like his current team who are as timid as a young adolescent who has been prepped to spend his life in a seminary. Exposing the hypocrisy of the West is like playing with matches, its as easy as child’s play but dangerous, kaya kailangan yung may dibdib gaya ni Duterte. Seriously, I think you should apply.

  13. How true is it, Loida Lewis Nicolas, the rich widow of a black American who supports the Yellows and has recently asked Duterte to resign, lives in New York?

  14. Thank you very much for this article. It’s past time a real journalist puts this in it’s proper perspective. I would like to see research comparing killings nationwide before Duterte and with drug related killings now. It would not surprise me if before it is mostly innocent victims and now it is mostly those who prey on those victims.

  15. Wilfredo M. Flores on

    i felt a sigh of relief with your opinion Sir.. A must read one. Keep it up. Long live

  16. That’s the irony with media, they report mostly with negative effect on the government and they report as if they know the real story which is the contrary. The NY Times report is more of a political twisting coming from an american who is very critical of Digong who is not lackey as he previous one (the incompetent the noy).

  17. You do what you can. The Philippines cannot afford US style “justice” which is often no justice at all with criminals acquitted by the skill of high price lawyers. There is an ongoing effort to destroy the Filipino society with drugs. The cartels routinely kill filipinos by the drugs or violently in reprisal for failure to pay or other betrayal. Now they are being wiped out and exposed. The rich, as they do in every country, will get away with it by going into exile or getting off on technicalities that lawyers “practicing” law use to subvert the law in the courtroom. Nothing new to Filipinos. They have seen it all before and worse. At least they now they have a President who is willing to act. Will the innocent be killed? Yes, some will killed but not nearly as many as were being killed by the cartels and their gangsters before the election. They were not as well publicized as the deaths of the drug dealers but they were every bit as real.

  18. You can blame the likes of DeLima and Trillanes for much of the poor image the Philippines has Overseas. People such as you writing trash articles about your President also should bear some of the blame. You should all be charged with Treason and jailed immediately. !!!!!!

  19. Thank you Mr Contreras for coming up with a sensible outlook of all these so called drug war killings. For the issue has been so much politicised that our image is pictured as so much worse as those countries where “real genocide” are being or has been perpetrated by the state. If only those who are trying very hard to call the attention of the international community regarding the issue to serve their own interest in the guise of concern for human rights can instead think of how they can help to solve the admittedly very serious problem of our country with drugs and think as well about the human rights of the numerous victims of drug related crimes, then we shouldn’t be in a situation where the country is pictured as a slaughterhouse. Come on oppositionists just don’t oppose for the sake of opposing, be sensible. Take it from Mr Contreras. Enough with politics and think about the people you’re suppose to serve.

  20. The New York Times is impertinent enough to make leap in connecting the death of suspected drug pushers and users at the hands of so-called riding-in-tandem. This is the same New York Times that had their tails between their journalistic legs when American soldiers were killing innocent Iraqi and Afghanistan civilians and did not have the courage to blame them to the Bush administration to their faces !

  21. Its true that Drug addicts are killing innocent people. But Drug Addicts are also victims of Drug Lords who makes millions by selling drug. My question now is: Did Any of this Big Drug Pushers being caught or Killed .. Non –NADA.
    Why is it only the little guy are being punish ..Because they are poor. The Rich Drug Lords are still doing their business as usual. Please tell your president to stop killing poor victims of drug start slaughtering those Generals , Governors , Mayors and Barangay Leaders he listed and names as Drug Lords and Protector.

    • There are big time drug lords who already died like Jaguar, among others. And definitely there are those who are already caught, do you even know Kerwin? If it seems that it is mostly the poor who die, it is because of their role in the drug trade which is being a pusher, so they are the ones caught in the act during entrapment operations, which result in their deaths if they choose to fight it out with the police. It is harder to catch the financiers red-handed. They work behind the scenes using their money.

  22. You want to give the narrative a fair hearing but not suspected drug dealers and users. Would it be different if the President says the opposite of what he’s been saying and the killings exist? Is your article contradicting itself?

  23. There is now a concerted effort to destroy the image of Duterte in local and foreign media. His downfall is imminent.