The murdered mayors of the Philippines
By City Mayors Research*
ON THIS PAGE: 28 Philippine mayors killed ||| List of “narco politicians” ||| “War on drugs” victims ||| 35,000 killed during Duterte presidency ||| The 28 mayors killed ||| Research & sources |||
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28 Philippine mayors killed during
the Duterte presidency 2016 - 2022
December 2022: Rodrigo Duterte, the former Mayor of Davao and Philippine President from 2016 to 2022, began his “war on drugs” virtually as soon as he was sworn into office in June 2016. By the end of his presidency, his campaign, which was largely modelled on his approach to illegal narcotics as Mayor of Davao, claimed tens of thousands of lives. Among the victims were 28 mayors and vice mayors, most of them killed by unidentified gunmen. Others were shot dead by police officers, some even while in police custody. The country’s Catholic leaders called the campaign a “reign of terror”.
List of “narco politicians”
A few months after he assumed the presidency of the Philippines, Duterte read out a list of some 160 public officials he accused of being involved in the narcotics trade. When the President’s administration published a follow-up version of the list, which included an additional 600 people, with many of those mentioned working in local government, Duterte warned mayors on the list to resign or “face death”.
The New York Times reported in June 2021 that the list of 600 included 44 mayors, vice mayors and other local government officials who were described as “narco politicians”. The newspaper found that more than half of those on the list were killed by police, with the authorities claiming the accused resisted arrest.
“War on drugs” claimed up to 35,000 victims
Philippine Government data released in June 2021 showed that as of the end of April 2021, police and other security forces had killed at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers during its operations. But government figures cited by the UN in June 2020 already pointed to at least 8,600 deaths. A Philippine police report in 2017 also referred to 16,355 “homicide cases under investigations” as accomplishments in the drugs war.
Human rights groups say the number of deaths could be between 27,000 and 30,000. They accuse the authorities of carrying out summary executions that killed innocent suspects, including children.
Among those killed were at least 73 children, with the youngest just five months old, according to a UN investigation. Countless people were also killed by “unknown” gunmen, who later turned out to be police officers, according to news reports. Only very few of the thousands of cases reported were prosecuted.
Rappler, the Philippine campaigning news service founded by Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa, put the total number of people killed during police drug operations, by unidentified assailants as well as by vigilante-style gunmen as between 30,000 and 35,000. Based on data obtained from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the Department of Justice and others, Rappler recorded the following killings.
Killed during Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency
(June 2016 to June 2022)
• Individuals, including those killed vigilante style: 27,000 to 30,000
• Individuals in police anti-drug operations: 6,250
• Activists, human rights defenders: 427
• Land defenders and environmental activists: 166
• Journalists, media workers: 23
• Judges, lawyers, prosecutors: 66
• Mayors, vice mayors: 28
Philippine mayors killed
during the Duterte presidency
* The research was conducted during October, November and December 2022. Sources used include Rappler, the New York Times, Reuters, Time Magazine, Human Rights Watch, CNN, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the BBC, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines as well as national and local newspapers and other media in the Philippines. Enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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