The neocolonial logics underpinning the “war on drugs” in the Philippines


  • Pablo Leandro Ciocchini CONICET/UNLP



War on drugs, hegemony, state violence, criminal courts, Philippines, Guerra contra las drogas, hegemonía, violencia estatal, tribunales penales, Filipinas


The “war on drugs” in the Philippines has claimed thousands of people lives and has resulted in the detention of hundreds of thousands of drug users. Legal professionals working in criminal courts have adopted a “punitive paternalism” when dealing with these cases that presented plea bargaining, even in cases based on planted evidence, as helping defendants to change their life habits. The article argues that both the “war on drugs” and the “punitive paternalism” are rooted in the neoliberal policies imposed on the Philippines for decades responsible for reproducing gross income inequality and promoting a narrative blaming individuals for their own economic marginalisation. The analysis shows that the deployment of coercive strategies, such as the “war on drugs”, is still dependant on building consent, in the Gramscian sense. The article shows legal professionals’ contribution to the constitution of a hegemonic order in a context of widespread state-sponsored violence.

La “guerra contra las drogas” en Filipinas se ha cobrado la vida de miles de personas y ha resultado en la detención de cientos de miles de consumidores de drogas. Los profesionales del derecho que trabajan en tribunales penales han adoptado un “paternalismo punitivo” al abordar estos casos en los que la negociación de culpabilidad, incluso en casos basados en pruebas plantadas, se presentaba como una ayuda a los acusados para cambiar sus hábitos de vida. El artículo sostiene que tanto la “guerra contra las drogas” como el “paternalismo punitivo” tienen sus raíces en las políticas neoliberales impuestas a Filipinas durante décadas, responsables de reproducir la enorme desigualdad de ingresos y promover una narrativa que culpa a los individuos por su propia marginación económica. El análisis muestra que el despliegue de estrategias coercitivas, como la “guerra contra las drogas”, todavía depende de la construcción del consentimiento, en el sentido gramsciano. El artículo evidencia la contribución de los profesionales del derecho a la constitución de un orden hegemónico en un contexto de violencia generalizada patrocinada por el Estado.


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Author Biography

Pablo Leandro Ciocchini, CONICET/UNLP

Pablo Ciocchini is Researcher at National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Argentina), Fellow of the Institute of Legal Culture of the National University of La Plata (Argentina) and Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Liverpool (UK). His academic interests include comparative studies of criminal courts, state-sponsored violence, Gramscian theory, neocolonialism and international arbitration. Contact details: Dr. Pablo Ciocchini, Researcher, CONICET-UNLP. Calle 48 entre 6 y 7, Tercer Piso, Edificio de la Reforma, 1900, La Plata. Email:


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How to Cite

Ciocchini, P. L. (2024) “The neocolonial logics underpinning the ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 14(1), pp. 9–32. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl.1677.