As President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal "war on drugs" entered 2017, most foreign journalists left even as the carnage continued. Clare Baldwin and Andrew RC Marshall stayed. They built on their previous year’s stand-out coverage with a series of brave, innovative investigations that exposed the killing machine responsible for thousands of deaths: the Philippine police.
Baldwin and Marshall used their mix of data analysis and shoe-leather reporting to identify a deadly police unit from Duterte’s hometown – the "Davao Boys." The report provided the only accounting of the individual killers on the frontlines of Duterte’s war. The reporters spent months tracing the unit’s lethal path through northern Metro Manila. Baldwin asked Charles Molinos, a Davao Boy present at 56 killings, why he had been chosen for the job. "Special kill skills," he replied.
What makes this project innovative?
What emerges is an intimate portrait of how a secretive anti-drug unit mobilized and killed - then vanished to await new orders. The story of the Davao Boys also highlights a larger dynamic: Many of the drug war’s key police officers hail from or served in President Duterte’s hometown, where the campaign’s brutal methods originated during his time as mayor.
The Reuters team faced great personal risk. Baldwin was greeted at one station by homicide detectives who shouted and lifted their shirts to display their guns. A Reuters stringer moved to a safe location after men in black began monitoring his home. Undaunted, our reporters returned again and again to police stations and national headquarters to prize out incriminating data and question senior officers. To protect themselves, Baldwin and Marshall often worked as a team and routinely changed hotels and cars to foil potential surveillance.