Resist, Adapt, Submit:
Barangay Officials Make Tough Choices in the Drug War

By Mixkaela Villalon, Abbey Pangilinan and Ica Fernandez

Illustrations by AJ Bernardo, Miguel Punzalan and Josel Nicolas

PCIJ Story Project

The barangay officials who will take office next month after winning Monday’s election will find themselves at the frontlines of the war on drugs. President Duterte has repeatedly said he needs “strong” barangay officials who will implement the anti-drug campaign. Noncompliance, he warned, is not an option.

This is the story of three barangay officials in Tondo who responded to the government’s war on drugs in different ways.

Village officials have the power to decide how the drug war will be fought – they have the choice to go along with death, to submit to authority, or to adapt and resist.

But such power is constrained. Local officials have to comply with the directives of the national government. Refusal to do so may be seen as complicity with the drug trade. Authorities have said they have a list of over 200 barangay officials involved in illegal drugs. The president himself has that “if those backed up by drug money will win as barangay captains, it will be another war. It will be another killing.”

The barangay is the linchpin of the administration’s anti-drug operations. Faced with national government directives on an all-out war on drugs, what should barangay officials do?