University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sheila Coronel

Murder as Enterprise: The Philippine Police at the Frontline of President Rodrigo Duterte's War on Drugs

Professor, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism
Dean of Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Journalism
Columbia University

February 9, 2018
12:00-1:30 p.m.
206 Ingraham Hall


During his election campaign in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte promised Filipinos that he would wage a war on drugs. “It’s going to be bloody,” he told wildy cheering crowds. “The funeral parlors will be packed.” He was true to his word. In the 18 months since his election, thousands of poor drug users and dealers have been killed.

The brutal efficiency of the war on drugs was possible only because the Philippine police was a ready, willing, and able killing machine. The police provides the resources and organizational structure for surveiling drug suspects, rounding them up, and conducting operations that almost always result in killing. Why are the police such willing executioners of the war on drugs? What makes the Philippine police so prone to excesses and abuse? What incentives do policemen have for fighting the war on drugs?

This talk will examine the underground economy of extortion, theft, abduction, and murder in which the police are both enforcers of the law and its worse offenders. It will explain how Duterte’s anti-drug campaign opened to the police fresh opportunities for extortion and other forms of money-making. It will make the link between corruption and torture and murder on a scale unprecedented in recent Philippine history.