Parish-Based Responses to the Philippine Drug War

39 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2021

See all articles by Steven Brooke

Steven Brooke

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science

David T. Buckley

University of Louisville; Georgetown University

Date Written: 2021


How do local religious institutions protect communities from state-sanctioned violence? This general question has taken on particular importance in the Philippines, where populist President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a 'Drug War' that has killed tens of thousands of citizens while triggering opposition from prominent religious elites. In this paper, the authors use an original, in-depth survey of Catholic priests and lay parish leaders in an urban area heavily impacted by Drug War violence to catalog how dozens of local parishes mobilize to protect their communities. They find two broad types of mechanisms in operation: directly impacting the localized production of violence and indirectly altering characteristics of the local community in ways likely to limit violence. Quantitative evidence documents the widespread existence of both direct and indirect mechanisms of community protection is consistent with the more limited presence of some of the highest risk Drug War responses and demonstrates an association between parish capacity and these protective mechanisms. Qualitative evidence traces the links between parish activities and particular cases of community protection, highlighting the coexistence of rationalistic and normative logics through which institutions reduce violence. Interviews also foreground some of the obstacles that even highly motivated and capacious institutions face in organizing local protection.

Keywords: religion, police, political violence, populism, Philipines

Suggested Citation

Brooke, Steven and Buckley, David T., Parish-Based Responses to the Philippine Drug War (2021). Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper No. 52, 2021., Available at SSRN: or

Steven Brooke (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science ( email )

Madison, WI
United States

David T. Buckley

University of Louisville ( email )

United States

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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