the dahas project

A running count of the reported drug-related killings in the Philippines by the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

What is a drug-related killing?

An incident is drug-related if the victim was killed through violent means (e.g. beaten to death, shot, stabbed) and meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Was killed in a drug-related operation, activity, or encounter;
  2. Was reported to be involved in the drug trade or in the war on drugs in whatever capacity (e.g. alleged drug personality, law enforcer, informant, etc.);
  3. Was reported to be in possession of illegal drugs at the time of the killing or when the body was found;
  4. Was reported to be associated with someone involved in the drug trade;
  5. Was killed by someone reported to be involved in the drug trade for drug-related reasons or while under the influence of drugs (assumed unless stated otherwise).


Dahas is Filipino for violence. The Dahas Project of the Third World Studies Center (TWSC) of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy of the University of the Philippines Diliman is a running count of the reported drug-related killings in the Philippines. It keeps track of the killings in a drug war that during its most violent period from 2016 until 2018 saw thousands die each year. The Dahas Project gathers its data from news accounts online posted by various media organizations in the country and occasionally from social media posts of police units and other state actors touting their accomplishment of having “neutralized” a known player in the illegal drug trade in their area. 


Dahas started as an offshoot of another endeavor, the Violence, Human Rights, and Democracy (VHRD) project, jointly conducted by our Center and the Department of Conflict and Development Studies of Ghent University in Belgium from June 2018 until August 2022. From the start, the VHRD project had an advocacy component; its stated aim was to “produce, and subsequently disseminate, rigorous research outputs that can sustain an evidence-based intervention in ongoing public debates in the Philippines about violence and tendencies towards authoritarianism.” It was not solely concerned with the War on Drugs initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte, and the TWSC’s VHRD team—led by University Researcher I Joel Ariate Jr. and then University Research Associate I Elinor May Cruz—after formulating the project proposal, initially served as members of a steering committee that oversaw and reviewed case studies done by commissioned researchers/grantees. 


Nevertheless, the TWSC VHRD team saw the need to track drug-related killings by themselves as a “side project,” not only because it was the most visible manifestation of violence in the country at the time, but also because other groups were doing only partial or partially viewable counts that needed validation, or were not transparent about the sources of their numbers. Moreover, the team felt a sense of duty to future generations—would the descendants of those in power at that time deny the killings perpetrated by state agents, as the heirs of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. do? 


A database of drug-related killings, drawing from media sources, was thus constructed. Outputs from this database were among the first contents of what was designed to be principally the VHRD website, The website, launched in February 2020, provided tools to help others count drug-related killings themselves, though the Dahas team continued to work on updating and expanding their database. 

A little over a month after the website’s launch, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began. Work-from-home became the norm in the University of the Philippines. 


Between April to July 2020, Palma Hall, where TWSC is located, was mostly off limits because it became a COVID-19 patient isolation facility; it continued to be mostly inaccessible when it was being disinfected until September 2020. Throughout this time, with little more than their personal computers, the Dahas team continued counting the drug war’s casualties. While adjusting to the pandemic and performing other tasks, the team, on May 18, 2020, through Vera Files, TWSC’s research dissemination partner, broke the news that there was no abatement in drug war killings amidst the raging pandemic. Persons in the media, among the first beneficiaries of Dahas, started to quote material from these articles and interview members of the Dahas team.  


In early 2021, with no ending in sight for both the pandemic and the drug war, the team started to formulate ways to make their work more visible and usable to a public more inundated with COVID-related matters than anything else. The project took a more deliberate visual turn. Another article that looks into the reported drug-related killings under the various police chiefs from 2016-2022, with several tables and infographics/charts, was published by Vera Files in February 2021. Later that month, the Dahas team—by then made up of Ariate and then project-based research associates Jamaica Jian Gacoscosim, Nixcharl Noriega, and Larah Vinda Del Mundo—submitted, through then TWSC director Joseph Palis, a project proposal titled “Visualizing the Casualties of the Drug War” to the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives on Culture and the Arts (OICA). According to the proposal, the OICA subproject aimed “to amplify the reach of the project’s outputs through a dissemination strategy which involves (1) releasing a weekly data digest of reported drug-related killings and (2) featuring the works of Filipino visual artists…who are tackling Duterte’s war on drugs and are attempting to tell the stories of its victims.” The OICA grant made possible the online exhibit, “The Drug War’s Visual Regime.” 


In March-April 2021, even before OICA approved the proposal, the team started to produce their infographics, releasing one showing the January-March 2021 summary of drug-related killings in the Philippines, and one on drug-related killings that happened on 1-7 April 2021. They used the TWSC’s official Facebook page and a newly created Twitter (now X) account, @DahasPH, as platforms. They designed their infographics while working mostly from home—within March 2021, the Center’s office was closed once more for disinfection after one of the staff occasionally reporting on-site came down with COVID. 


Steadily, the Dahas Projec’s public drug war monitoring gained the attention of journalists and human rights advocates here and abroad. Since August 2022, there has not been a month that Dahas’s work was not cited by the media and/or press releases of advocacy groups. Even in the face of possible harassment, members of the Dahas team have made themselves available to dozens of journalists and organizations seeking their unique insight into the drug war. They took on their Dahas work in addition to all their other duties, becoming what Inquirer columnist Manolo Quezon III referred to as a “metronome of doom,” further burdening themselves with almost daily research on violence at a time when all were struggling with disease and death. Whether one calls it vicarious trauma or another term, painstakingly searching for and closely examining news about killings is the unexamined burden that  Dahas researchers shoulder.


After Duterte’s term ended, they were, to quote the news outlet Rappler, “the team [that] kept counting the dead.” Journalists, representatives of foreign embassies and international organizations, advocacy groups, and academics, among others, came to rely on Dahas for drug war figures. Even the Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice have taken notice because Dahas’s work has been raised time and time again by journalists and politicians. 


Dahas has changed reporting on the drug war, ensuring that any claim made by those in power that the anti-drug campaign has become “bloodless” is properly contextualized or refuted. Even before that, it helped make sure that drug war killings did not leave the headlines and the public discourse. It helped advocacy groups in highlighting the persistent killings hardly addressed by the government. Dahas has helped present what would otherwise be disparate news on drug-related killings in a concise and understandable manner, showing “hotspots” that journalists, advocates, and concerned officials should pay close attention to.


Joel F. Ariate Jr.

Larah Vinda del Mundo

Vincent A. Halog

Nixcharl Noriega (former)

Marion Abilene Navarro (former)

Jamaica Jian Gacoscosim (former)

Dianna Therese Limpin (former)

Ruth Siringan (former)

Elinor May Cruz (former)

Christian Victor Masangkay (former)

Interns and Student Assistants

Joseph Adrian Afundar  

Jewel Christopher Politico 

Francesca Duran 

Frey Aura D. Galario

Ivy Geraldine Ferrer (former)

Jessie Malibiran Jr. (former)

Junah Amor Delfinado (former)

Jose Mari Santos (former)

Carlos Inigo Torcelino (former)

Paulyn Regalario (former)