Philippe was born in Pestel, in the province of Grand'Anse. He obtained his primary and secondary education at Saint-Louis de Gonzague. Human Rights watch alleges that in his late teens he was a death squad leader during the rebellion against Baby Doc Duvalier and in the turmoil which followed.
According to Philippe, he "has a law degree from Ecuador and studied medicine in Mexico for a year." In 1992, he received a scholarship from the Haitian Armed Forces (FAd'H) to Ecuador's police academy (La Escuela Superior de Policía "Gral. Alberto Enríquez Gallo"), where he graduated in 1995. When he returned to Haiti, however, the FAd'H had been dismantled, so he was assigned to the newly created police force, which is why he was never formally part of the Haitian army.
Phillipe accepted a commission as a commander in the Haitian National Police, and then became the police chief of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas from 1997 to 1999. International monitors later "learned that dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, mainly by police under the command of Inspector Berthony Bazile, Philippe's deputy." In 1999 he was made police chief of Cap-Haïtien.
On 15 January 2000, Guy Philippe and his wife had a daughter named Aïsha. Following October 2000 accusations of participation in a coup plot and his subsequent removal from his post as police chief of Cap-Haïtien, Philippe fled to the Dominican Republic. While there he recruited ex-military and others forming a paramilitary organization, which received training from the U.S. Government. The Haitian government accused Philippe of masterminding a deadly attack on the Police Academy in July 2001 and of an attempted coup in December 2001. In July 2003, witnesses place him, together with Voltaire Jean-Batiste, leading a death squad operating in eastern Haiti just across the Dominican border.
In February 2004, he returned from the Dominican Republic with his paramilitary group to join the 2004 Haitian coup d'état against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Five days after crossing back into Haiti and joining former militia leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain in announcing his support for anti-government forces, Philippe was given command of the rebel army. On 2 March 2004, Philippe and his paramilitaries retook control of the former Haitian Army headquarters across from the National Palace. Philippe declared to the international press that he himself was now in control of 90% of Haïti's armed forces. In an address on Haitian Radio, Philippe declared, "The country is in my hands." He summoned twenty police commanders to meet with him the previous day and warned that if they failed to appear he would arrest them.
That same day, Philippe announced he would arrest Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who is a top official of Aristide's Lavalas party. Democracy Now! heard from sources in Haïti that Neptune's home was burned and looted and that he was being pursued by armed gangs. People close to Neptune reported that he fears for his life. Local radio reported that Neptune was evacuated from his office by helicopter as Guy Philippe led a mob in a march to the office. Meanwhile, there are reports of regular execution-style killings on the Haitian seaside.
On 11 July 2005, Guy Philippe announced he would run for president for the Front for National Reconstruction (FRN) party. The FRN is also his guerrilla group which was involved in the coup of 2004. Early in 2005 the FRN became recognized as a political party. Philippe has been critical of the administration of the interim government, blaming them for the slow process of setting up registration centers throughout the country. Early on he was considered a front runner for the Haitian general election, 2006 but later fell behind the main contenders simply because he did not have the money required for a campaign. In spite of his international and local rebel backers and appealing to young Haitians to follow him, Phillippe won less than 1% of the vote, demonstrating that he had failed to project his persona as a popular hero.
Shortly after dawn on 16 July 2007, five helicopters, two planes and more than a dozen heavily armed DEA and Haitian anti-drug agents surrounded Philippe's home in the hills above Les Cayes, on Haiti's remote southern peninsula, to seize evidence of drug trafficking. Philippe was suspected of ties to illegal drug trafficking in Haiti. Philippe's supporters said the allegations against him were politically motivated, noting he had recently threatened to identify powerful Haitians who provided financial support for the 2004 coup d'état. Nevertheless, Phillipe was indicted in the United States on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and money laundering.Following his indictment, Phillipe isolated himself in his hometown of Pestel protected by his paramilitaries.
In 2015, Phillipe began his run for senator in the Haitian parliament as a member of the National Consortium of Political Parties Haitian (CNPPH). However, his paramilitary units continued a guerrilla war to "create havoc and overthrow the provisional president, Jocelerme Privert." In the final election Phillipe won the seat for Grand'Anse department, and was due to be sworn in on January ninth.
On the afternoon of 5 January 2017, Guy Philippe was arrested on these charges as he walked out of a popular radio show. He was extradited to the US on the same day as his arrest. His arrest was not without controversy as the freshly elected senator had not yet received the immunity from legal charges or arrest that is provided under Haitian law to protect serving lawmakers, also there were questions about the legality of the extradition.