2020 Stock-take

The last year has been horrifyingly difficult, and for my main collaborators and myself, the path towards survival seems to be channelling the rage and frustration from all of these things into working as hard as possible. Since the Philippine population will only get mostly-vaccinated by 2023 I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to keep this up. Maybe we can survive (and thrive) out of spite?

In the meantime this is a rundown of a few publicly-available things that’s been released in my world(s) in the last twelve months:

COVID-19 work/as UrbanisMO.Ph

  1. March 2020, as UrbanisMO.ph – “In Metro Manila, Fighting COVID-19 Requires Helping the Poor—Now” Published by the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism and other major news networks. https://pcij.org/article/3890/saving-metro-manila. This was picked up by GMA’s documentary group into a spin-off episode + we’ve got a few COVID-focused episodes on the UrbanisMO Podcast, in partnership with Young Public Servants.
  2. August 2020, with Tanya Quijano and Abbey Pangilinan – “Misplaced Priorities, Unnecessary Effects: Collective Suffering and Survival in Pandemic Philippines. ” The Asia-Pacific Journal 18(16). Available at: <https://apjjf.org/-Abbey–Pangilinan–Maria-Carmen–Ica–Fernandez–Nastassja–Quijano/5435/article.pdf>
  3. ·October 2020, with Justin Muyot, Abbey Pangilinan, and Tanya Quijano – “A Hero’s Welcome? Repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers and COVID-19.” Published by the London School of Economics SEAC. [online]. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2020/10/08/a-heros-welcome-repatriated-overseas-filipino-workers-and-covid-19/

Policy-directed work in Mindanao/Bangsamoro

  1. Long-running work released in June 2020 with Maripaz Abas, Tirmizy Abdullah, Hadzer Birowa, Bam Baraguir and Ombra Imam – “Children of War: A Rapid Assessment of Orphans in Muslim Mindanao.” Published by The Asia Foundation with support from the Australian Embassy. https://asiafoundation.org/publication/children-of-war-a-rapid-needs-assessment-of-orphans-in-muslim-mindanao/ I’m pretty happy that we were finally able to get this out, and that there’s interest amongst the BTA and other parties to take the work forward.
  2. The public version of a strategic review of Australia’s support to peace in Mindanao, released in November 2020 with the management response. Worked on this just before the pandemic hit with Fermin Adriano and Noor Saada – https://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/development/strategic-review-and-management-response-australias-support-peacebuilding-conflict-affected-mindanao-2020

There’s quite a few other projects that’s still in the pipeline/embargoed for various reasons, as usual, pero pwede na muna to.

2021 seems like 2020 redux–but still let’s try to be useful in the meantime, despite?

Examining the effects of drug-related killings on Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer beneficiaries in Metro Manila, 2016-2017

After more than two years of work, Abbey Pangilinan, Nastassja Quijano and I are releasing a first paper on the early effects of the so-called Philippine Drug War on conditional cash transfer beneficiaries in Metro Manila from 2015-2016. The full preprint is available for download here, with coverage available from the Southern China Morning Post, The Asean Post, and Rappler. Many of these threads appear in the hip-hop album Kolateral, but there are certain things that even the best works of art cannot completely convey.

There are so many things that I wish we could have done methodologically given constraints on time, resources, and data access. Realistically only the Department of Social Welfare and Development and its development partners will have the ability to do a full-scale review across all regions–which I hope they will do, as a first step towards designing support interventions for the families left behind.



Is the Philippine War on Drugs truly a ‘War on the Poor’? Focusing on beneficiaries of the Philippine conditional cash transfer (CCT) or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, we examine the effects of anti-illegal drug operations on poor families in Metro Manila from April 2016 to December 2017. From field validation and interviews with families affected by drug-related killings (DRKs), we find that at least 333 victims out of 1,827 identifiable DRK cases in Metro Manila from June 2016 to December 2017 were CCT beneficiaries. This is equivalent to anywhere from 1,365 to 1,865 affected household members, including at least two children per family. At least 12 cases involved multiple killings within the same family. These are extremely conservative figures since field validation did not saturate all cities in Metro Manila and does not include deaths after December 2017 or other poor families that are not covered by the CCT. The findings illustrate that drug-related killings negatively affect CCT beneficiaries and their families. Most victims were breadwinners, leading to a decrease in household income. The reduced available income, as well as the social stigma of having a drug-related death in the family, causes children covered by the CCT to drop out of school. Widowed parents often find new partners, leaving the children with aging paternal grandmothers. Drug-related killings are often bookended by other hazards such as flooding, fires, and home demolitions. The direct effects of these killings, compounded with disasters and other socioeconomic shocks, traumatizes CCT families, erodes social cohesion, and pushes them further into poverty. We conclude with recommendations for the design of support packages to mitigate untoward effects on families, children, the elderly, as well as single parent households.

See https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336317469_Examining_the_effects_of_drug-related_killings_on_Philippine_Conditional_Cash_Transfer_beneficiaries_in_Metro_Manila_2016-2017

EDIT: Popular coverage of the research project can be found here:

  1. Southern China Morning Post – “As Duterte’s drugs war rages on in the Philippines, nation’s children are paying the price”
  2. The Asean Post – “Who are Duterte’s real victims?”
  3. Rappler.com – “How Duterte’s drug war is negating key anti-poverty programs”
  4. Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism – “Between Two Wars” [an illustrated piece supported by the PCIJ Story Project]

Maratabat: Dignity and Displacement after Marawi and Vinta

How do we make sure that frontline service delivery after a natural or human-induced disaster respects the dignity of affected communities? What happens when the same communities are hit by both?
A case study I wrote in 2018 on maratabat as an expanded concept of dignity in the context of post-Marawi crisis and Typhoon Vinta displacement has just been published by the Overseas Development Institute. This is part of a comparative volume on dignity in displacement featuring cases from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Colombia, and the Philippines. Thanks to the many workers and communities on the ground who helped me understand this a little more including Assad Baunto, Maharlika Alonto, Dr Hamid Barra, Dr Bebot Rodil, Ysmael Mangorsi, Salic Ibrahim, Ivan Ledesma, and the frontline service providers of the ARMM, Lanao del Sur, and Marawi City Governments. Features one map by JR Dizon.
The full publication, edited by Dr Kerrie Holloway, is available for download through the link below: