Drug war in the Philippines

Blavatnik School of Government
Open to the public
This event is free - register below to attend
March 2019

Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines in May 2016 after repeatedly promising to kill 100,000 drug users and dealers in his first 6 months in office. His election created a climate of impunity and unleashed a wave of extra-judicial killings: more than 5,000 individuals have been killed by the police; though the Philippine Commission on Human Rights puts the total tally at 27,000.

Despite efforts by the government to limit freedom of expression, a number of groups in the Philippines and internationally are working to not only document the killings that are still happening across the county but also to explore legal avenues, including with the International Criminal Court, and to educate Filipino voters about drugs and their effects.

Join us for a panel discussion with Raffy Lerma, a photojournalist who has been documenting the war on drugs, Diane Desierto, Associate Professor of Human Rights Law and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, and Inez Feria, the founder of NoBox, a civil society organisation providing services to drug users in Manila and advocating for reforms of drug-related policies and laws. The event will be chaired by Julien Labonne, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government.

A drinks reception and an exhibition of Raffy Lerma's photographs will follow the talk.

Speaker biographies

Diane Desierto is Associate Professor of Human Rights Law and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA). A former law clerk at the International Court of Justice and faculty member and Director of Studies at the Hague Academy of International Law, Professor Desierto is also active as international arbitration counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, listed Arbitrator at the British Virgin Islands Arbitration Centre, and is one of the only two Philippine citizens accredited as Affiliates of the International Criminal Court Bar Association.

Inez Feria is Founder and Director of NoBox Philippines, which espouses principles of harm reduction in response to issues related to drug use. The organisation advocates for policies and services that prioritise health, safety, and security of people who use drugs, their families, and their communities. Inez’ work is influenced heavily by her education in Psychology and Medical Anthropology at the University of the Philippines, and programmes that intersect drug policy, human rights, and harm reduction.

Raffy Lerma is a freelance photographer based in Manila, Philippines. His work focuses on documenting the Philippines' war on drugs.  Lerma’s photograph of drug war victim being cradled by his grieving partner as he lay dead on the street was featured on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and news outlets around the world. It became, and continues to be, the singular iconic image that symbolises the ongoing violence and impunity in the Philippines.