Understanding election violence in the Philippines: Beware the unknown assassins of may

Tom Smith*, Joseph Anthony L. Reyes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

552 Downloads (Pure)


Despite election violence being a commonly agreed upon phenomena in the Philippines, there has been a dearth in academic research on the topic in recent years, largely due to a lack of reliable information. To address this, our article adapts recognized methods from studies such as Lindsay Shorr Newman’s 2013 paper, together with Stephen McGrath and Paul Gill’s 2014 research on terrorism and elections. To expose the timing of election violence, we tracked incidents relative to election dates for the period from 2004 to 2017, with the results indicating that violence increased closer to an election date, and frequency substantially increased during the 14-year period. This is the first academic journal article since John Linantud in 1998 to focus on the issue of election violence in the Philippines but through adaptive methodologies goes further, enabling national analysis. Furthermore, our findings reveal statistically significant differences regarding the types of terrorist attacks and targets when comparing election and non-election periods. We highlight complicating factors such as the majority of attacks being attributed to “unknown” actors and the complex situation during elections. The results also demonstrate that election violence in the Philippines is dominated by the New People’s Army and the use of assassination. The paper makes the case for further research and the creation of a dedicated database of election violence in the Philippines and elsewhere, and evaluates the measures implemented by the government that have failed to stem election violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-519
Number of pages29
JournalPacific Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021


  • Assassination
  • Election violence
  • New People’s Army
  • Philippines
  • Terrorism


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding election violence in the Philippines: Beware the unknown assassins of may'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this