Human Rights Review

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 67–101 | Cite as

Examining the Determinants of Extra-Judicial Killings in the Philippines at the Subnational Level: the Role of Penal Populism and Vertical Accountability

  • Rollin F. TusalemEmail author


Since the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, extra-judicial killings (EJKs, hereafter) have become commonplace as a result of his administration’s declaration of war on drugs. Empirical cross-national work on examining determinants behind state repression remains scant especially in understanding the phenomenon at the sub-national level. This study investigates what accounts for variations on EJKs at the level of Philippine provinces. Using monthly panel-data for 62 provinces and employing various count-model regressions, the findings indicate that Philippine provinces which have large populations, stronger state capacity, and are more affluent in terms of the human development index are more likely to exhibit higher rates of EJKs. Furthermore, the vote share of the President in the 2016 elections and presidential visits to specific provinces are correlated with higher incidences of EJKs—corroborating theories on delegative democracies and penal populism. Lastly, it is found that drug-prone provinces are more likely to experience a higher share of human rights violations in terms of EJKs, compared to provinces that have lower affectation rates. The implications suggest that the Philippine war on drugs seem to promote vertical accountability as international criticism and domestic opposition mounts.


Political violence State repression Extra-judicial killings Extra-legal killings Populism Penal populism State capacity War on drugs Human rights violations 



The author would like to thank Ryan Craig for research assistance and Michelle Allendoerfer, Nicole Curato, Veena Kulkarni, and participants in the panel on human rights and state repression at the MPSA annual conference held in 2018 for providing feedback, comments, and suggestions on an earlier draft.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceArkansas State UniversityState UniversityUSA

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