FRONTLINE (PBS) Goes Inside President Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines, Presenting The U.S. Broadcast Premiere of “On The President’s Orders”


A police officer on a night patrol in Manila, Philippines. (Olivier Sarbil/FRONTLINE)

October 3, 2019
Anne Husted Series Publicity Manager, FRONTLINE

“Kinetic, pavement-pounding….A wholly cinematic, sensory experience”– Variety

“Chilling, unflinching” – Cinema Axis

“A nail-biting investigative look at Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly ‘war on drugs’”
Filmmaker Magazine

On the President’s Orders
 Tues., Oct. 8, 2019, at 10/9c on PBS & online | Twitter: @frontlinepbs
Instagram: @frontlinepbs | YouTube:

Following acclaim on the international festival circuit, FRONTLINE (PBS) presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of On the President’s Orders, a searing, on-the-ground look inside President Duterte’s bloody campaign against suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines.

Shot in the style of a thriller, On the President’s Orders, is based on unprecedented access to the police themselves, as well as President Duterte’s own statements and speeches, and time spent with victimsexposing a murky world where crime, drugs, poverty and politics converge.

The documentary airs Tuesday, October 8 at 10/9c on PBS, at and on the PBS Video App.

While filming over several months in Manila,  award-winning directors James Jones and Olivier Sarbil (Mosul) examined the continuing suspicions that police have been carrying out extrajudicial killings – despite Duterte promising to scale back his war on drugs.

In addition to speaking with the families of drug users and victims, Jones and Sarbil embedded with a police unit in Caloocan, Manila, offering an unfiltered glimpse into their world and the officers’ modus operandi.

“When you’re really embedded with people, they just forget you’re there; you’re getting the real essence of who they are. Our aim was to get inside the heads of the men who were implementing Duterte’s brutal war on drugs on the streets of Manila,” Jones says.

“We had to gain the trust of the people and police in Manila,” says Sarbil. “At a certain point we were able to go in and out of the police station, and we became sort of invisible.”

The film also illustrates how President Duterte’s crackdown on drug users has greatly affected the country’s most impoverished citizens — a campaign that citizen protestors say is “clearly a war on the poor.”

“If you are poor you don’t get justice,” says Manila resident Loremie Sevilla, a young woman whose brother Jonathan was shot dead in a suspected drug killing.

An observational documentary, On the President’s Orders combines the look and feel of a narrative feature film with a revelatory journalistic investigation into the impact of Duterte’s drug campaign and policies – which the police themselves say have led to more than 5,500 deaths.

The result is a gripping, visually stunning window into Duterte’s war on drugs – those carrying it out, and those most impacted by it.

This is the latest example of FRONTLINE’s investment in theatrical documentary programming. Earlier this year, On the President’s Orders had its world festival premiere at CPH:DOX, its North American festival premiere at Hot Docs, and its U.S. festival premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The film will also have a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles in the beginning of  October.

On the President’s Orders premieres on Tuesday, October 8 at 10/9c on PBS, online at and on the PBS Video App.

On the President’s Orders is a FRONTLINE PBS and ARTE France production with Mongoose Pictures in association with BBC Storyville and Bertha DOC SOCIETY. The directors are Olivier Sarbil and James Jones. The producers are James Jones and Dan Edge. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 91 Emmy Awards and 22 Peabody Awards.  Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. 

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