Shoot First

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UPDATE: In the weeks following this episode's original air date, President Rodrigo Duterte officially suspended the national police's involvement in the war on drugs and handed responsibility over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). It's a much smaller agency, and one that likely doesn't have the resources to wage a drug war as bloody and widespread as the one national police force has waged.

When Rodrigo Duterte took office as president of the Philippines six months ago, he made a promise: he would wage an aggressive war on drugs in his country. It's a promise he's fulfilled wholeheartedly.

Since that day, thousands of drug suspects have died, many at the hands of the country's own police force, whose motto under Duterte has become "shoot first." And, amidst the bloody chaos wrought by the war, many Filipinos support Duterte. They think he's doing a good job. Despite the killings – or maybe, because of them.

That story was produced by Michael Sullivan, who was NPR's senior Asia correspondent for 12 years. Before that he was senior producer for NPR's Foreign Desk and, previously, the show runner for All Things Considered. He is the winner of a couple of Overseas Press Club Awards and a Robert F. Kennedy Award (shared), among others. He currently lives in Thailand's Golden Triangle writing radio pieces and making pizzas. (#MekongPizza)

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A mother holds a framed photographed of her son
who died during a drug arrest operation on October 10, 2016
in the Arellano district of Manila, Philippines.

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A relative showing a picture of Aristotle Garcia after
he was allegedly killed during a police operation.

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Prisoners rest inside a crammed jail cell in
Tondo Manila, Philippines on October 10, 2016.

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Major Paulito Sabulao shows the bullet wound he earned during a
drug buy-bust operation he conducted in Arellano District, Malate Manila.

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Police station chief Major Sabulao holds a list of drug suspects
arrested or killed during operations on October 10, 2016
in the Arellano district of Manila, Philippines

Episode photo: A chick stands on top of Clerence Padre's casket during his wake on October 10, 2016 in Arellano district of Manila, Philippines. It's a tradition in the Philippines for chicks to stand on the casket of murder victims, to represent pecking away at the conscience of the murderer. (All photos by Alecs Ongcal)



Bob Carlson


Bob Carlson