Policing a Pandemic : Understanding the State and Political Instrumentalization of the Coercive Apparatus in Duterte’s Philippines

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-386
Number of pages24
Journal / PublicationJournal of Developing Societies
Issue number3
Online published15 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


As the world was mired in distress, some leaders saw opportunities to exploit the pandemic and further consolidate their grip on power. It is, thus, the objective of this article to discuss how, when, and why the state’s coercive apparatus has been instrumentalized by its leader amid a crisis. It will also explain how such apparatus has shaped both the aura of invincibility of the state and social order within the polity. The deployment of the Philippine National Police by President Rodrigo Duterte will be analyzed and discussed. The main argument of the article is that while the police has been given extensive powers to amplify the state’s power and assist in administrating a crisis-stricken society, they have also been instrumentalized to bolster an illiberal regime. In particular, the police were bestowed positions of authority within the state’s pandemic response apparatus, provided a broader leeway to wield violence through a contentious anti-terrorism law, and mobilized to unfairly enforce government-imposed measures. Thus, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Duterte’s Philippines, civil liberties were violated, cultures of violence and impunity worsened, and the executive powers were consolidated.

Research Area(s)

  • State, society, coercive apparatus, police, pandemic, Philippines