The Drug Killings: Who, What, Where, When, How?

Thousands have been killed in the campaign against illegal drugs. No complete list of casualties exists, so we don’t have precise numbers. The casualty count since mid-2016 could be around 25,000 partly based on the government’s own information. The police say they have killed some 4,300 in “legitimate” police operations; in addition, there are over 22,000 “homicides under investigation” that may be linked to drugs.

The Ateneo Policy Center compiled a list of 5,021 drug-related deaths from news reports between May 10, 2016 and September 29, 2017. This is just a fraction of all the killings, but it tells us who are being killed, where, when, how, and why.

Who are the casualties?


The dead were typically tricycle drivers, construction workers, vendors, farmers, jeepney barkers, garbage collectors or were unemployed.

Where were they killed?




Who were the killers?

2,753 or 55% were killed by policemen as part of police operations

1,907 or 38% were killed by mostly unknown, often masked or hooded, assailants

355 or 7% were found dead, often with gunshot or stab wounds, and in many cases, with handwritten cardboard signs placards saying they were drug pushers left beside their bodies.

When were they killed?

The spike in killings began as the presidential campaign was drawing to a close in May 2016.

On July 1, 2016, the first day of the Duterte presidency, the police were ordered to conduct “immediate and simultaneous” anti-drug operations. 39 people were killed on Day One alone.

The killings dipped on January 30, 2017, when the President halted police operations in the wake of the discovery of the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.

They peaked again in mid-August 2017 when the police launched multiple operations in Metro Manila and Bulacan, and killed 101 people over five days.