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Effect of Urban Violence on Poverty and Inequality

Info: 8313 words (33 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: SociologyLaw EnforcementCriminal Law



Violence and fear are entwined with processes of social change in contemporary cities (Caldeira, 2000). Violence is now seen as a hindering factor to social change and development. This is one of the reasons why governments, policy makers, as well as the academe, gave significant attention in understanding the relationship between violence, poverty, and development. Broadly defined, violence is the process of inflicting physical or psychological harm to oneself and/or to others (World Bank, 2011b; Moser and McIlwaine, 2006; WHO, 2002). Delving deeper into violence, this study focuses on urban violence particularly unravelling the motivations for violence in cities, and how this relates to poverty and inequality. Scholars like Moser & McIlwaine, Jones & Rodgers, and Vanderschueren have investigated urban violence in relation to issues like social exclusion and inequality in the case of cities in Latin America and Africa. Having examined these cases, it is interesting to look at the case of urban violence in Metro Manila, Philippines and how it affects the poor; particularly conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) (2016) reported that the crime rates have the highest concentration in Metro Manila compared to other regions in the country and these are mostly economic crimes like robbery and theft. This interest in urban violence acquires even greater significance with the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines because his victory marked the beginning of a nationwide ‘War on Drugs’ (herein referred to as WoD). The WoD has caused a shift in the typology of urban violence in Metro Manila from economic to violent crimes, with approximately 9,000 were killed in a year, majority of which (if not all) were poor.

Meanwhile, the focus on CCT beneficiaries, as a representation of poor households, is anchored on the foundation that if indeed urban violence is linked with poverty, then getting the experience and perception of the poorest sector in the Philippines[1], is a good avenue to understand the relationship. By design, CCTs are given to poor families so that they can invest in the human capital of their children (Lavinas, 2013; Fiszbein et.al, 2009). The Philippines is implementing the third biggest CCT[2] in the world (next to Brazil and Mexico) with 4.4 million household beneficiaries (Acosta and Velarde, 2015), which means the government has household level information for 4.4 million households (Annex A), which can be utilized for various forms of social assistance, but it can also be used for state orchestrated violence.

Taking these into consideration, the main argument for this study is because CCT beneficiaries are integrated into State systems and structures, they become more legible and vulnerable to urban violence, especially in the context of the WoD. Legibility covers various mechanisms and manipulations of the State to promote social order (Scott, 1998). The government keeps a comprehensive database of all CCT beneficiaries, including their names and exact addresses, for monthly monitoring of compliance to conditionalities. With the allegations that the police are receiving cash rewards for every suspected drug user arrested or killed (Mogato and Baldwin, 2017), such list can serve as a potential source of “targets” to meet the quota.

Chapter 3 is divided into two sections, the conceptual framework, specifically, Scott’s (1998) theory of legibility, and the research design. The conceptual framework illustrates the relationship between the different elements of the study while the research design presents the methods of data collection and analysis. Name matching was also conducted to determine how many among the victims were CCT beneficiaries. This study used mostly secondary data from various sources, such as government agencies, news articles and investigative reports from local and international organizations. The secondary data were complemented with key informant interviews of former and current government officials and other individuals involved in the CCT program and the WoD. The final two chapters detail the research findings and analysis, which examined the relationship between CCT and urban violence in Metro Manila through the lens of legibility and informality. Finally, this study concludes with a summary of the salient features of the linkage between CCT and urban violence as well as possible areas of future research and policy development, specifically on promoting violence prevention at the community level.

1.1. Rationale for the Study

Michelle Mergillano was one of the thousands killed in Duterte’s WoD. She was shot in front of her children inside their home in Marikina City[3]. Michelle was also an active CCT beneficiary. The death of Michelle triggered my interest in examining whether being a CCT beneficiary is a factor in one’s experience of violence—especially within the context of the Duterte’s WoD. As a former public servant previously involved in the implementation of the Philippine CCT, I am committed to examine the relationship between urban violence and the CCT, mainly because majority of the available literature are in the context of Latin America, thus highlighting the need to have one that is specific to the Philippine context.

  1.      Urban violence is limited to direct violence[4], which was defined by the World Bank (2011b) as the actual act of inflicting physical or psychological harm to a person, whether against a family member, between and amongst individuals, or committed by organized groups for socio-political or economic agenda.



2.1. Key Debates on Urban Violence

Urban violence is a challenge to development (Koonings and Kruijt, 2007) because it is rooted in situations of poverty and inequality (Vanderschueren, 1996) and weak socio-political institutions (Hoelscher and Nussio, 2016). Notably, the poor face greater risks of experiencing violence and its consequences, especially those in low-income urban areas (Winton, 2004).  Various studies done to understand the motivations for urban violence (see Beall and Fox, 2009; Galvin, 2002), can be summarized into: 1) economic, often linked to crimes like robbery; 2) social, which is associated with domestic and interpersonal violence; and 3) political, which are anchored on using organized violence to push for specific agenda. In the abovementioned categorizations of violence, one notable gap is that it focused mostly on physical violence that is external to the State.

To address this gap, Moser’s (2004) discussion of institutional violence and McLean’s (2015) discussion on structural violence play a crucial role because these are both related to the power of the State. Institutional violence showed that weak institutions and its failure to provide security to its people cause and/or increase the risk of violence (Moser, 2004). Structural violence underscored that violence can be built within the various aspects of society; it is also used by the state to maintain power, which eventually leads to unequal life chances among its citizens (McLean, 2015).

Meanwhile, Koonings and Kruijt (2007) argued that poverty often creates an environment for violence to thrive, which disproportionately affect the poor because they do not have the means to manage its negative impacts. Vanderschueren (1996, p. 93) presented a contrasting argument by stating that poverty does not automatically lead to violence.  In fact, the socio-political and economic factors brought about by violence often contribute to the worsening conditions of inequality and social exclusion. While both arguments are valid, it only proves that violence and its relation to poverty and development cannot be viewed with a linear perspective. Rather, it should be viewed as two elements that reinforce each other and hence should be addressed simultaneously.

With the prevalence of violence, the poor become marginalized because they experience what Muggah (2012) refers to as the climate of fear and Moser and McIlwaine’s (2006) culture of silence. With the fear of experiencing violence, the poor limit their mobility, which may lead to loss of livelihood and evasive actions towards human capital investments like sending their children to school. The study done by the World Bank (2011b) argued that the urban environment in violent contexts also contributes to the poor’s immobility and social exclusion since they avoid going to places they deem unsafe and would put them at risk, thus increasing their tendency to just stay home.

Garmany (2014,p.1242) bridged violence, poverty, and the State by showing that violence against the poor has gone worse, with urban planners and political elites seeking to “clean” communities for redevelopment through the help of the police. These studies do not only highlight the linkage between urban violence and poverty, it also shows the inability of the state to provide citizen security. While it was acknowledged that institutional violence is rooted on the failure of elements of the state, like the police and the judiciary, to respond to the needs of its people (Moser and McIlwaine, 2006), these studies still failed to discuss how the state itself could be the perpetrator of violence.

As a response to this limitation, Auyero and de Lara (2012) presented the concept of visible iron fist, which is the violence of the State (often through the police) against its people. This form of violence is manifest in practices of social cleansing and territorial sieges in slums and other marginalized communities. Although the study by Auyero and de Lara (2012) was limited to the context of Argentina, it is a good illustration of how the State can use its monopoly of violence to push specific agenda. In another study, Beall (2006) linked State orchestrated violence with urban space, indicating that violence against civilian populations are used to exert power and control over resources and getting rid of ‘unwanted’ population, who are perceived affect the State’s goals and policies. This study affirms that once violence is used by the State, it does not only threaten development but the freedom and safety of the citizens as well. This illustration is in line with Arendt’s (1970) observation that violence is always entwined with the superior power of government over its people. The contribution of having this perspective towards government and violence is that it raises the issue of the decline in the people’s trust on the state’s ability to protect them from harm (Muggah, 2012; Hoelscher and Nussio, 2016).

Finally, the available literature on urban violence were focused on understanding the root causes of violence and developing solutions that are anchored on the perspective and suggestions of the communities themselves  (see World Bank, 2011a; Moser and McIlwaine, 2006; Galvin, 2002). The strength of using a community perspective in understanding violence is that it is not confined to statistics to measure violence. Rather, it is grounded on actual experience and input from people who are exposed to violence in their daily lives. Using this method also bridges the gap in quantitative methodologies, which according to Galvin (2002, p. 126) makes violence difficult to standardize since data are often inaccessible or not available, especially in developing countries.

Although much headway in understanding violence has been made with these community-based approaches, these studies assume that state institutions can be engaged to prevent violence. It does not factor in the scenario where the state is the perpetrator of violence.  Also, the researches are mostly done in the context of Latin America such as Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia (see Garmany, 2014;World Bank, 2011a; Moser and McIlwaine, 2006), Argentina (see Auyero and de Lara, 2012). Again, the focus on the Latin American experience underscores the need to examine the experience of cities and countries outside the region, particularly in Southeast Asia, and identify similarities and differences in the relationship between urban violence and poverty despite varying contexts.

2.2 Conditional Cash Transfer Programs: Design, Evidence and Impact

In the comprehensive study done by Fiszbein et al. (2009), numerous impact evaluations showed that the CCT made children stay in school by reducing child labour in countries like Brazil, Cambodia, and Mexico. Barrientos (2012) also presented evidence that CCTs improve asset security because the cash grants improve consumption that equips poor households to respond to income shocks. In another study, the Asian Development Bank (2011) indicated that CCTs promoted gender equality, especially for education because it enabled families to send both male and female children to school. However, while it is good that the gains of the CCT are already documented in numerous studies, these are often focused on the socio-economic gains of the program and did not allocate discussions on spillover effects, particularly on the socio-political aspects of operation.

Of course, the CCT was not spared of criticisms; Ghosh (2011) argued that cash transfers are not a silver bullet that can solve poverty because of high inclusion and exclusion errors (70% for Mexico and 59% for Brazil). Consequently, there is a need to ensure an effective targeting system to guarantee that only eligible beneficiaries receive the grants. Being a demand driven program, the State must also provide sufficient facilities like schools and health centres so that the beneficiaries will have access to services and comply with program conditionalities. The supply side was the challenge in the Philippines because there are still areas with no health and education facilities that hinder the people complying with program conditionalities (Reyes and Tabuga, 2012).

The limitation in these studies on the CCT is that it often looked at the program in isolation from the societal context from which it is being implemented. For instance, CCT thrived in Mexico and Brazil, which are also challenged with various degrees of urban violence. Now that there is recognition on the relationship between violence, poverty and development (World Bank 2011a), it is just apropos to look how this interrelationship affect the CCT as a poverty reduction program that promotes social inclusion and community empowerment. There are a few literatures that links CCT with urban violence, but these are mostly in Latin America.

For instance, Lance (2015) claimed that social spending through CCTs reduced crime in Mexico and Brazil because cash grants linked the poor with the State. The argument is that the CCT is a manifestation of government’s presence and intent to improve the lives of the poor, which in the context of slums, has led to the reduction of crime. Lance (2015) provided empirical evidence, which showed the reduction in murder rates in Brazil and Mexico, particularly in areas with high magnitude of CCT beneficiaries. Camacho and Mejia (2013) referred to this as the income effect of CCT, which is the ability of the program to reduce property related crime because income augmentation and support. Chioda et.al (2015) also looked at the spillover effect of CCT on crime in schools Sau Paulo, which showed the reduction in economically motivated crime involving school-age children.

More explicitly relating violence and the CCT, Jones et.al (2008) discussed that in Peru, the CCT (Juntos) was done to target poor populations affected by political violence. The objective for Juntos was to improve community dynamics and citizen participation. In the Philippines, Crost et.al (2014) looked at how CCT reduced conflict at the village level by causing a decrease in the insurgent’s influence over communities with CCT beneficiaries.  In Pakistan, Ghorpade (2016) did a similar study and looked at how cash transfers reduced violence in certain areas because it made government presence felt during periods of violence and conflict. The studies done by Crost et.al (2014) and Ghorpade (2016) focused on the rural context, which might be different when CCT is viewed in the context of urban violence.

The strength of these studies, which juxtaposed CCT with violence, is that it showed the poor’s ability to cope with the socio-economic shocks brought about by a violent environment. With these cases into consideration, CCT is seen to have an effect on economic violence and even in political violence because it is a disincentive for people to commit crime and it also establishes a positive relationship between communities and the government. Although looking at the reverse situation, wherein CCT triggers violent acts is also necessary. At present, Crost et.al (2014) had findings that in the rural context, CCT also had negative correlations with violence, with CCT beneficiaries being subject to extortion (i.e. revolutionary tax) since insurgents know that they are getting cash grants from government. The negative effect of CCT towards the people’s exposure to various forms of violence needs to be examined further.

2.3. Legibility as a Framework of Analysis

Apart from understanding violence and CCTs, it is crucial to know the overarching framework from which such interrelationship will be analysed. In this study, the theory of legibility as presented by James C. Scott (1998) will be used. Legibility is defined as the attempt of the State to promote social order through the exercise of monitoring and control of its population. Since its conception, legibility has been used to analyse varying processes involving human and State action, such as in addressing human trafficking (Hua, 2014) or in examining State violence in the context of human rights in times of terror  (Feola, 2014; Butler, 2004).

In separate studies, Butler (2004) and Feola (2014) relates legibility to power and social exposure, wherein there are certain groups of people who are left unprotected from violence primarily because they are illegible to the State. Butler (2010) also viewed legibility in relation to dependency, wherein those illegible to the State are the ones vulnerable and in need of State protection hence, are often subject to State power. The strength of Butler’s (2004) application of legibility is that she established clear linkages between humanity, legibility, and State violence. For this study, Scott’s (1998) concept of legibility serves as the primary lens in examining the Philippine CCT in relation to urban violence. The CCT is a tool for the State to document and monitor the poor, and within the context of an abusive State, such legibility can turn into a liability.

2.4. The Context: Crime and Violence in Metro Manila and the Philippine CCT

The Philippines has experienced different forms of violence, from ideological based armed conflict (see Kreuzer, 2005) in its Southern provinces to displacement and relocation of informal settlers in its cities (Ragrario, 2003), but it has not experienced violence like the WoD. The Philippine National Police (2016) reported that the crime volume in the Philippines from 2012-2016 had an average of 500,000 per year (Annex C) with almost 50% of these being crimes against persons and 24% happening in Metro Manila. Duterte’s victory marked the start of a violent WoD by virtue of Command Memorandum Circular No.16-2016 (Annex D), also known as Project Double Barrel (Oplan Tokhang[5]). Duterte sanctioned killing of anyone linked to drugs, with statements as strong as “If you know any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful[6]”.

The WoD gained traction, with murder rates increasing from 9,643 in 2015 to 11, 385 in 2016. Majority of these murders were in the slums of Metro Manila, where the PNP claims that 93% of neighborhoods are drug infested. As a result of the WoD, McKirdy (2017) reported that crime rates were down by 13.48% from 2016 but the murder rates increased by 18%, which sums up the 9,432 killings from July 2016 to March 2017, more than half of these killings were extrajudicial killings—allegedly orchestrated by the police.

In terms of the Philippine CCT, just like other CCTs, it provides cash grants based on their compliance to co-responsibilities for health[7] and education[8]. It was first implemented as a pilot in 2007 and after 10 years of implementation, Acosta and Velarde’s (2015) benefit incidence analysis showed that the Philippine CCT reduced short-term poverty by improving the income of CCT households by 7.4 percentage points. Meanwhile, Orbeta et al (2014) did an impact evaluation that showed education expenditure among CCT households is 82% higher than non-Pantawid children (annually per school aged child), which for health 70% of CCT beneficiary mothers deliver in health facilities compared to 56% for non-CCT beneficiaries.  The Philippine CCT is also praised for its good targeting system with 82% of beneficiaries belonging to the bottom 40% in terms of income status (Acosta and Velarde, 2015). The effectiveness of the Philippine CCT in terms of poverty reduction and targeting has always been considered above average.  However, if implemented under a government like Duterte, where being poor becomes a liability, it is worth examining how this kind of environment is affecting the daily lives of the CCT beneficiaries, which is what this study is abou CHAPTER 3


3.1 Conceptual Framework

In Chapter 2, the knowledge gaps from the available literature on the relationship between urban violence and the CCT were identified. In relation to these gaps, this conceptual framework (Figure 1) illustrates the linkages between the key elements of this study, namely urban violence and the Philippine CCT. With legibility as governing framework, the role of the state is integral in both the process of implementing a poverty reduction program and/or carrying out a violent process like the WoD.  On legibility, Scott’s (1998) perspective centred on State control through urban development, it also stressed that despite the various units of manipulation, State power controls the people and arranges the population in a way that would yield maximum benefits. The practice of legibility is interpreted in the positive when the vision of the State is to ensure that the marginalized are given a fighting chance at life, by investing in their health and education. However, the same process of making the poor legible to the State can turn into a liability the moment the leadership changes its priorities, as in the case of Duterte in the Philippines whose main goal is to eliminate suspected drug users.

The reason for the broken lines and arrows in Figure 1 is anchored on the condition that there are many factors influencing governmental actions that have potential to harm the physical well-being of CCT beneficiaries, especially in urban poor areas, where police operations pursuant to the WoD is most intense. This is in contrast with the established processes followed by government in implementing programs like the CCT. In line with this, it is worth noting that there is a commonality between the two processes.  The final output converges at the level of the communities, because the targeting process congregates in identifying eligible and/or liable individuals. This is where being a CCT beneficiary can possibly turn into a liability because being known beneficiaries of a State program can also mean being subject to State-sanctioned violence brought about by the WoD.

3.2. Research Design

This study used a mixed method approach, which is defined by Creswell (1999) as the combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches for data collection and data analysis. To be specific, a sequential explanatory design is used, which is characterized by the use qualitative data to complement the quantitative findings (Creswell et.al, 2003). Quantitative data for this study takes the form of the count of victims of the WoD in Metro Manila, which are subjected to name matching against the CCT database. Meanwhile, the qualitative data used to complement the quantitative data is lifted from secondary sources like newspaper articles, speeches, reports and documents from government agencies and partner civil society organizations (CSOs).

This study used mainly secondary data in determining the experience and degree of vulnerability of CCT beneficiaries of urban violence. The rationale for using a mixed methods approach is to ensure that the results of the name matching will be supported by the contexts wherein they occurred. Furthermore, since both the name matching and the newspaper articles present a macro perspective on the experience of urban violence, secondary data sourced from the DSWD, particularly documentation of Family Development Sessions[9](FDS), which solicits input from the CCT beneficiaries themselves on the topic of safety and security.

3.3 Method of Data Collection

Three phases of data collection were employed in this study. The first phase required the consolidation of the list of names of the victims of the WoD, which are reported online through ABS-CBN News, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and the independent organization, paalam.org. Sourcing the data from the media and an independent organization was due to the unavailability of the data from the PNP on the 9,432 deaths[10] related to the WoD. I repeatedly sent requests, through the official Freedom of Information portal of the government, but I did not receive any response[11]. Additionally, the PNP uses a different categorization of the casualties in the WoD. For the PNP, the official figures are only those that were killed during police operations, while the drug related killings done by vigilante or unidentified killers are classified as death under investigation (DUI). With this, the consolidated data collected from various media organizations in Metro Manila, consist of a total of 2,331 names. This list was officially transmitted to the DSWD for name matching with the CCT database.

All information collected from the DSWD, CPE, are confidential because some of these contain the personal information of the beneficiaries. Meanwhile, the KIIs used purposive sampling since the topic would require expertise in the Philippine CCT and knowledge on the on-going WoD. These KIIs were conducted using an interview questionnaire with open-ended questions. Originally, all the interviews were supposed to be done through Skype, however, due to difficulty in finding a common schedule due to the time difference, as well as stable internet connection (in Manila), out of the KIIs scheduled, only one was done through Skype. Threes interviews were done via phone and one via email questionnaire. To capture nuances in the phone interviews, these were recorded with the assistance of a former colleague who was also present during the phone interviews. Except for the email interview questionnaire, all interviews were transcribed and stored in Google drive along with the signed consent forms.

3.4. Method of Data Analysis

The quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, specifically the result of the name matching between the list of WoD victims and the CCT database. The qualitative data collected from the newspaper articles, reports and the investigative features, as well as the FDS results and the KII, were coded and examined using discourse analysis. The impetus for using discourse analysis lies on the need to understand and examine the motivations behind urban violence, which is reflective of the dynamics of power between government and its subjects, particularly the poor. Through discourse analysis, the linkage between violence and the CCT will be examined in relation to the context and the motivations behind it, chiefly within the context of urban violence and the State’s exercise of legibility principles.  Discourse analysis is important because there is a need to account for nuances that govern specific issues and spaces, as well as the power structures and varying agenda and stakeholders that influence these (Dittmer, 2010; Lees, 2004).




4.1. Locating CCT beneficiaries among the Victims of the WoD

4.2.  The War on Drugs as Reported by the Media

Meanwhile, the result of the review of 55 newspaper articles and the investigative reports provided the stories behind the victims of Duterte’s WoD in the past year. The most notable are Michael Siaron, 30, and Michelle Mergellano, both CCT beneficiaries. Siaron, a pedicab (rickshaw) driver, is best remembered to be the man in the photograph (Figure 2) that brought international attention to Duterte’s WoD. The photo showed Siaron’s lifeless body being cradled by his partner, Jennylyn Olayres resembling the famous Pieta. Meanwhile, Michelle Mergellano was one of the first female victims of the WoD. Michelle was shot in front of her five children while resting inside their shanty.  Agoncillo’s (2017) article even detailed that Michelle’s children were asked to clean the crime scene and even recovered their mother’s shattered teeth. In the course of going through the news articles reflecting CCT beneficiaries who were killed in the WoD, a lot of themes surfaced but in the end, all the reports told one story, that of Michael’s and Michelle’s. In the beginning, Duterte promised his WoD to go against large syndicates, but one year later, it only went after people like Michael and Michelle—the poor.

All 55 articles reporting on the WoD showed that all the victims were poor and were living in slums. With the exception of a local official and a case of mistaken identity, all of the victims were killed either inside their shanties or along the dark alleys of slum neighbourhoods. Dozens of photographs like Figures 3 and 4 from the New York Times, support the assertion that WoD is a war against the poor, including CCT beneficiaries. Whether the victim belonged to the CCT program or not, there was not a single news article that featured a WoD victim who was killed in a different place other than a slum.

The profile of the victims of the WoD is also worth noting, majority were male and were aged between 16-45 years old. The young were not exempt from the WoD as evidenced by the death of two CCT beneficiaries, Jonel Segovia and Angelito Soriano, both 16[12], who were gunned down along with three other teenagers, because they were in the same house as a suspected drug user. With the exception of children like Segovia and Soriano, the profile of the victims is that they were either unemployed or were breadwinners working in the informal sector as rickshaw drivers, construction workers, or porters, which are the common source of income for people living in slums.

Figure 3: Michael Araja, 29, suspected drug user,  Pasay City

There were also 37 reports that highlighted the involvement of the police in the killings. Investigative reports done by Amnesty International (2017) and the Human Rights Watch (2017) claimed that the vigilante killings were also ordered by the police, with evidence that rewards were given to the police for every suspected drug addict killed. This alleged reward system is the possible explanation for the surge of killings during police operations and the rise in homicide cases targeting suspected drug users.

The final recurring theme in all the articles is the trigger for WoD—Duterte himself.  The articles always referred to Duterte being “The Punisher”, especially with his statements rallying the people to kill drug users, and about the poor and the children being collateral damage. From the macro standpoint, it is clear that Duterte’s WoD will continue to bring violence and death amongst the poor and as in any war, the poorest are the most vulnerable. The succeeding section takes on the perspective of the CCT beneficiaries themselves and how they experience violence in their daily lives, specifically in the current context of Duterte’s WoD.

Table 1: Summary of output of pilot FDS on safety and security

Table 1 showed that beneficiaries experienced violence even before the WoD, especially during periods of payout. Prior to the WoD, CCT beneficiaries experience violence that is tied in their neighborhoods; these are mostly street crimes like robbery. Their vulnerability is heightened during payouts because the money they receive increases the risk for economic violence. Former DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman (2017) said that beneficiaries experience violence due to envy from non-CCT beneficiaries who perceive beneficiaries as “privileged” because they are recipients of aid from government. The empowerment process brought about by being part of a program like the CCT is also considered as a double-edged sword because the very situation that empowers them also exposes them to violence because they are now seen as threats to local officials who are in power. With the WoD at the background, local officials can easily include the name of CCT beneficiaries in the list of suspected drug users and this will not be questioned by anyone (Soliman, 2017). An example of such case is that of Arnel Pendatun[13], who was killed for allegedly being a drug user but another possibility is because he was the leader of the Muslim Christian community in their neighborhood.

Similar to the result of the document review, the FDS result also manifests the negative perception of beneficiaries towards the police and local leaders. Instead of being seen as protectors, the police are seen either as perpetrators of violence or as incompetent units who cannot protect the poor from harm. A parent leader (interview, 2017) from Doña Imelda shared that she experienced abuse of power of the police when her son was arrested without warrant and was detained because his name was in the list of suspected drug users.  She further narrated, nagpapsalamat na lang ako na hindi pinatay kaya hindi na kami nagreklamo (we were just thankful that they did not kill him, so we did not complain anymore). Based on the perception of beneficairies, their experience manifest the general sentiment of the poor that the institutions like the police which are meant to protect them are the ones causing them fear and harm.




5.1. Legibility to Liability: Urban Violence and the Philippine CCT

From the results of the primary and secondary data collected, the vulnerability of CCT beneficiaries to urban violence happens at two levels; first at the level of the community and second at the level of the State. At the community level, being a CCT beneficiary is seen as a privilege because of the exclusion of poor households who fail to satisfy the eligibility criteria[14] to be included in the program. This form of exclusion among the poor triggers envy and conflict between CCT and non-CCT households, especially in urban poor communities, where there is constant competition for resources and opportunities. As expressed in the output of the FDS on safety and security, the fact that CCT beneficiaries receive cash grants on a regular basis make them “easy” targets for economic violence, such as robbery and extortion.

Under these conditions, CCT beneficiaries are not only legible to the State, who separates them from non-poor households, but they are also made legible to their communities because they are separated from non-CCT beneficiaries. Scott  (1998) described legibility as a simplification process done by the State to institute order and is often manifested in the segregation of the population by class and function. This simplification process is beneficial on the part of the State because it is able to identify, locate, and monitor the poor. Furthermore, by making the poor legible, the State does not only harmonize efforts for poverty reduction, it is also able to establish a bond with the beneficiaries and influence their behaviour to satisfy the ideals of a good citizen.

At this point, it appears that the susceptibility of CCT beneficiaries to urban violence is only prevalent at the community level. However, when the priorities of government change from poverty reduction to a violent antidrug campaign, then the degree of one’s vulnerability to violence also changes. This is a situation where legibility becomes a liability especially for the poor. This has been the case in the Philippines after Duterte’s election as president wherein his WoD led to the death of thousands of people, mostly from slums, with approximately 50% of these killings being in Metro Manila. The question is how does this change affect CCT beneficiaries?  The data indicates that 21% of the WoD victims in Metro Manila were CCT beneficiaries, which is also reflective that the WoD heavily hits the poorest of the poor.

This increased exposure of CCT beneficiaries to State-sanctioned violence, brought about by the WoD, is not only rooted on the fact that they are poor but more on the premise that they are legible to both the State and their communities. The beneficiary’s legibility becomes a liability is apparent in the parallelism between the targeting processes for the CCT and the WoD, both of which are lodged at the local level. The data on the CCT beneficiaries is available to barangay officials because they are the DSWD’s partners in program implementation. Meanwhile, the same local officials are tasked by the PNP to submit a list of suspected drug users in their areas for Oplan Tokhang. This becomes a perilous situation for beneficiaries because being known to State authorities increases the likelihood of being included in the “kill list” especially if they are seen as a threat to exiting power structures. Of course, another motivation is the reward system since quotas have been set for the number of suspected drug users to be killed. Prior to the WoD, CCT beneficiaries are most vulnerable to economic violence but now they are also exposed to political violence.

Soliman (2017) shared in the interview that beneficiaries are highly vulnerable to violence, especially with the WoD, because being part of the program affected the existing power dynamics in the communities. CCT beneficiaries are now seen as a threat to the position of power currently held by local officials because beneficiaries are more vocal and empowered to hold officials accountable. With the objective of maintaining the status quo, the process of identifying suspected drug users serves as an avenue for local leaders to manage the threat posited by empowered CCT beneficiaries. This may have been the case for Arnel Pendatun, a known community leader and CCT beneficiary, and Michelle Mergellano, an active parent leader, both were killed in WoD operations even if their families claim they were not drug users. The inclusion of CCT beneficiaries in the list of suspected drug users becomes possible because this is in line with the exercise of legibility. Putting beneficiaries in the list simplifies the process of carrying out the WoD mandate given by Duterte to local officials and the police, while at the same time maintaining social order in their localities by neutralizing the voices that questions abuse of power and authority.

5.2. Legibility and Informality: A War on the Poor

The previous section presented evidence on how being legible at the level of the community and at the level of the State contributed to the increased vulnerability of CCT beneficiaries to urban violence. This section underscores another contributing factor, which is the fact that they live in slums and belong to the informal sector. With the WoD as the overarching context, it is inevitable to link legibility with informality, which following Roy’s (2005) definition is also determined and defined by the State. The data on the WoD, supported by the literature and the KII, clearly illustrates that WoD has not only been an attack on the poor but it was an attack centred on the slums. By delimiting the problem of drugs and crime to the confines of the informal, then the deaths within these auspices become acceptable because they are collateral damage in achieving the vision of a crime and drug free society. This also explains why police operations were concentrated in slums and not in villages and gated subdivisions because the poor cannot fight back. Only the poor in the fringes were targeted because they were already positioned in the domain of the informal—the dispensable. As Caldeira (2000) said, the experience of violence is class specific and it is always the poor who suffers the most.

Putting this in the context of the WoD, the State was able to establish a narrative that confines the crime and drug problem to the slums and by projecting the poor as perpetrators instead of victims.  This narrative takes the attention away from the State’s failure to provide security for its citizens, especially the marginalized.  This was obvious in the KII with parent leaders, as well as in the newspaper articles, wherein the overall sentiment of CCT beneficiaries and the families of WoD victims is that the violence towards the poor became acceptable because the poor are no longer considered human by their own government. This condition heightens the divide between what is formal and informal, with the poor occupying the informal spaces while the middle class and the elites dominate the formal domain. In this binary, the government positions itself as the protector; the only problem is that the protection seems to have excluded the poor—including the CCT beneficiaries.

It is also worth noting that under this condition, the double standards of being a CCT beneficiary comes into play because as beneficiaries of a State program, they are within the State systems and thus cannot fully question the failure of the State to protect them from harm. Living in slums and occupying what the State classifies as informal, can subject beneficiaries to State-sanctioned violence, which is what has happened in the WoD. Hence, the interplay between being legible to the State yet being classified to belong to the informal domain increases the vulnerability of the poor, specifically CCT beneficiaries to State-sanctioned violence because they can easily be identified as targets, yet once they’ve been harmed, their suffering are neglected or ignored. In the end, this is in line with Scott’s (1998) view that with legibility, States usually disregard the values, desires and needs of their subjects if this goes against the set vision of social order.

5.3. Legibility and Fear: A War Within

Even before Duterte became president, his platform has been clear, he will fight crime and drugs in order to create a peaceful and safe society. This promise won him 16 million votes and the presidency. Yet, what many people fail to realize after one year is that this peaceful and safe society seem to benefit only a subset of the population—the middle and upper classes. In fact, the contrary is happening for majority of the population, specifically the poor. Instead of feeling safe and secure, the poor now live in constant fear as shown in the result of the FDS with CCT beneficiaries and in the recent survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS)[15].  This contradiction persists because Duterte continue to have high approval ratings, especially from the upper classes[16]. Despite the local and international media reporting about the WoD everyday, depicting the same imagery of suspected drug users being shot dead along dark alleys in slum settlements or inside their own shanties, the general public continue to approve of Duterte’s vision of a legible and orderly State.

In one year, what the Duterte administration has achieved was to start a war within, which resembles what Zizek (2006) calls the politics of fear, where the state uses fear as the mobilising principle. By blowing the problem of crime and drugs out of proportion, the state was able to create a climate of fear—fear amongst the poor because they can be killed anytime and fear amongst the middle and upper classes because suspected drug addicts and criminals can cause them harm. In relation to legibility, the state used the vision of a safe and secure city to justify the WoD and to conceal its inefficiencies and to make people behave a certain way. Based on the case of CCT beneficiaries, they know that they are on the losing end of this war simply because they are poor and second because they are beneficiaries of a state program.  As shown in the case of the 421 beneficiaries who were killed and whose families are now left either without a father or a mother, the biggest casualties of Duterte’s WoD are the poor and their children.

Legibility in the context of the WoD and CCT beneficiaries is a trigger that increases the beneficiaries’ exposure to violence. Based on the results of this study, the WoD has completely transformed the typology of violence experienced by CCT beneficiaries, from economic violence to political violence that can lead to death. Butler (2004) considers this a perilous situation because human vulnerability is completely in the hands of other humans, where lives are given without control. The culture of fear that result from the WoD has prompted CCT beneficiaries to alter the way they live their lives, they have imposed curfews for their children, they have avoided jobs that would require them to work late and even moved out of their communities to return to the province. Additionally, the WoD also deprived the poor, CCT beneficiaries in

[1] The Philippine CCT covers 20% of the total population in the Philippines and the bottom 40% (DSWD, 2016).

[2] Locally known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program

[3] See Agoncillo, 2017

[4] Throughout the study, when the term violence is used it meant direct violence unless stated otherwise

[5] Oplan Tokhang is the operationalization of the WoD. Tokhang means knock and plead.

[6] See the Guardian, 2017

[7] Health and nutrition conditionalities require: 1) pregnant household members to avail pre and post-natal care, deliver the child under the services of a skilled health professional; 2) children aged 0-5 years old must be given immunization, have monthly health and weight monitoring; 3) children aged 6-14 years old must take deworming pills twice a year. 4) Attendance of at least 95% to monthly family development sessions

[8] Education conditionalities require: 1) children aged 3-5 must be enrolled in day care of pre-school and maintain a class attendance of at least 85%; 2) children 6-18 years old must be enrolled in elementary and secondary school and maintain a class attendance rate of at least 85% a month.

[9] Family Development Sessions (FDS) is part of the health conditionality for the Philippine CCT. This is done once a month, where CCT beneficiaries in groups of 20-25 meet once every month to discuss topics like active citizenship, responsible parenthood, etc.

[10] See Cahiles, 2017

[11] It was later announced that the PNP is no longer part of the participating agencies in the FOI

[12] See See, 2017

[13] See paalam.org

[14] Having children aged 0-19 and/or a pregnant household member

[15] See SWS, 2016

[16] See SWS, 2017

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