Disaster, Discipline, Drugs, and Duterte Emergence of New Moral Subjectivities in Post-Yolanda Leyte

My new paper was published in Ethnographies of Development and Globalization in the Philippines: Emergent Socialities and the Governing of Precarity, edited by Koki Seki, Routledge, 2020.

My chapter is a fruit of my 20 years long relationship with Western Leyte, where I fell in love with the Philippines and determined my way of life. The locality was devastated by typhoon Yolanda (Haian) and penetration of illegal drugs accompanied by violence. I had never dreamed such tragedies would happen to the peaceful place with lovely people. This was a dangerous and depressing research, which must be impossible to conduct without the locals’ kind support despite their sense of insecurity.

Disaster, Discipline, Drugs, and Duterte
Emergence of New Moral Subjectivities in Post-Yolanda Leyte
Wataru Kusaka

This chapter explains why majority of Filipinos, especially the poor, have come to support or at least tolerate President Duterte’s “war on drugs.” I answer this question by arguing that people’s punitive attitude against “evil others” is attributable not only to Duterte’ penal populism but also to the neoliberal governmentality which has increasingly encompassed Filipinos along with the shift of dominant employment from feudal agriculture to the service sector. The rural poor in Leyte have experienced the process in a drastic way within an extraordinary short period of time since typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated coconut agriculture in 2013. Those who lost their livelihoods became dependent on programs of NGOs, the state, and private sector which encourage beneficiaries to become “good citizens” in exchange for resources. While many have struggled for post-disaster recovery as disciplined “good citizens,” others found alternative sources of income in illegal drug trafficking run by a drug lord family. Amid the atmosphere of violence and insecurity, the “good citizens,” who remain in poverty despite their efforts at self-disciplining, have built up resentment not only against the drug lords, pushers and users, but also against the inefficient state unable to ensure even basic security of life. This has led to their staunch support for Duterte.