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Who will Bury the Dead? Community Responses in Duterte’s Bloody War on Drugs

Investigator(s):

Nicole Curato, Jayeel Cornelio and Filomin Candaliza-Gutierrez

Who will Bury the Dead? Community Responses in Duterte’s Bloody War on Drugs

Funded by ANU-DFAT Philippines Project Small Research Grant ($14,000), the Project Team includes:

  • Nicole Curato, Chief Investigator

  • Jayeel S. Cornelio, Co-Investigator

  • Filomin Candaliza-Gutierrez, Co-Investigator

  • Bianca Ysabell Franco, Research Associate

  • Erron Media, Research Associate


Project Description

This project aims to conduct an exploratory study that examines community responses to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. It is envisioned to be the first phase of a longer-term collaborative project which chronicles the social and political legacies of the drug war on the community level. While international media and human rights groups have called attention to the alarming body counts in the first six months of Duterte’s administration, it is equally important to take a systematic look at the communities that have directly borne the costs of war.


The team aims to conduct preliminary data gathering to map formal and informal networks that are created, disrupted or negotiated because of the war, as well as the possibilities and obstructions for grassroots participation to formulate inclusive and humane approaches in solving the problem of illegal drugs.  The approach is ethnographic and action-oriented. A team of sociologists will closely observe two communities in Manila that have witnessed a spate of killings and identify spaces for reform.


This project aims to generate preliminary insight into how the war has forged or broken social networks within communities, and how it affects formal and informal structures of governance. These insights are crucial to better understand not only the costs of the drug war, but also identify emerging spaces for critical citizenship and collective problem-solving.


Academic Publications


  1. Cornelio, Jayeel and Medina, Erron (Forthcoming) ‘Christianity and Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines,’ Journal of Politics, Religion, and Ideology.

  2. Curato, N. and Ong, J.C. (2018) ‘Who laughs at a rape joke? Crass politics and ethical responsiveness in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines,’ in Ethical Responsiveness and the Politics of Difference, T. Dreher and A. Mondal (eds.) New York: Palgrave.

  3. Curato, Nicole (2017) The Duterte Reader: Critical Essays in Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


Speaking Engagements


  1. Medina, Erron (2019) ‘Christianity and Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines.’ Contemporary Identities in Southeast Asia: A public forum on youth, violence, and transnationalism, Ateneo de Manila University. February 15.

  2. Franco, Bianca Ysabelle (2019) ‘Women in the Shadows of Duterte’s Drug War.’ Philippine Sociological Society Socio Caravan, Central Mindanao University. January 18.

  3. Franco, Bianca Ysabelle (2019) ‘Women in the Shadows of Duterte’s Drug War.’ Philippine Sociological Society Socio Caravan, Bukidnon State University. January 17.

  4. Franco, Bianca Ysabelle (2018) ‘Women in the Shadows of Duterte’s Drug War.’ Philippine Sociological Society (PSS) Conference, Siquijor State College.  October 5-6.

  5. Cornelio, Jayeel and Erron Medina (2018) ‘Christianity and Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines.’ Third International Conference of the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies. August 24.

  6. Cornelio, Jayeel (2018) ‘Philippines under Duterte.’ Invited speaker, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of Sydney. May 18.

  7. Cornelio, Jayeel (2018) ‘Christianity and Duterte's War on Drugs in the Philippines.’ Invited lecture, Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong. April 24.

  8. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘Who laughs at a rape joke? Crass politics and ethical responsiveness in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines.’ Southeast Asia’s democratic recession: Understanding causes and consequences, Griffith Asia, Griffith University. December 11-12.

  9. Gutierrez, Filomin Candaliza (2018) ‘Penal Populism in the Philippines: The Rise of Violence in Duterte’s War on Drugs.’ Invited lecture, Kyoto Sangyo University, Kyoto, Japan. November 8.

  10. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘How do populists govern? Lessons from Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines.’ Yale MacMillan Centre, Yale University. October 16. 

  11. Gutierrez, Filomin Candaliza. (2017) ‘The Rise of Penal Populism and Violence under the Duterte Regime: Research as Response.’ International Sociological Association PhD Laboratory, the University of Adam Mickiewicz, Poznan, Poland. September 21.

  12. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘From Demagogues to Deplorables? Populist publics in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines.’ Invited speaker, Philippine Studies-Berlin, Humboldt University. June 26.


Blogs and Op-eds


  1. Franco, Bianca Ysabelle (2018) ‘Women against women in Duterte’s drug war’ in BroadAgenda. December 11.

  2. Cornelio, Jayeel and Medina, Erron. ‘Duterte’s enduring popularity is not just a political choice—it is also religious’ in New Mandala. September 3.

  3. Franco, Bianca Ysabelle (2018) ‘Women in the shadows of Duterte’s drug war’ in Rappler.com. June 30. 

  4. Cornelio, Jayeel (2018) ‘The New Normal’ in Rappler.com. January 23.

  5. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘The deeper dynamics of Duterte’s drug war’ in EastAsiaForum.org. September 8. 

  6. Gutierrez, Filomin Candaliza (2017) ‘Duterte and Penal Populism: The Hypermasculinity of Crime Control in the Philippines’ in Discover Society.org. August 2.

  7. Cornelio, Jayeel (2017) ‘Collateral Damage’ in Rappler.com. August 22.

  8. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘Women in Duterte’s War on Drugs.’ BroadAgenda. March 1.


Media Interviews


  1. Curato, Nicole (2019) Interview with David Astle. ABC Radio Melbourne and Victoria. January 31.

  2. Curato, Nicole (2018) Duterte’s Despotism. Podcast with Aufhebunga Bunga. November 7.

  3. Curato, Nicole (2018) #BabaeAko: Is President Duterte's behaviour sexist, or "taken out of context" in The Stream, Al Jazeera. June 6.

  4. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘Criticism of Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” grows after the death of a teenage boy.’ Interview at Radio National. August 23.

  5. Curato, Nicole (2017) ‘Duterte refuses to step back from controversial war on drugs.’ Interview at ABC The World. July 24.

  6. Curato, Nicole. (2017) ‘Die moisten Toten lebten in Armut.’ Featured interview in Republik.ch. February 27.

  7. Curato, Nicole (2017) Interview with BBC’s Up All Night with Rod Sharpe. January 2.