- John Tria
Are the drug war’s detractors playing with numbers?
Still on President Duterte's drug war, Resurgent mainstay John Tria weighs in on the convoluted numbers.
If there is one thing that is truly amiss in this entire exchange of speeches from Vice President Leni Robredo and the European Parliament, and yes, even the diatribe of Jim Paredes, is that the numbers being quoted in the so- called drug war are at best, confused, and at worst, inaccurate.
As young writers in the 90s, we were admonished, nay scolded for being remiss with facts. Grammar mistakes are forgiveable, but factual errors can get you fired. Providing confused data makes it even worse as it may conceal an intent to mislead.
Having said that, listed hereunder some issues with the data:
1. the use of the 7,000 "summary executions" many media outlets like to quote is false and misleading. Worse, some try to create the impression that these 7,000 killed were on orders of the president, hence the crime against humanity charge being floated by his detractors. This has become a spun narrative that many international press outlets unfortunately have delivered to their readers.
This is because they include many deaths that may not be attributed to the drug war at all. In fact the Philippine Daily Inquirer, itself critical of the drug war, was at least able to classify the numbers, where it reported that between July 1 and February 16, only 2,127 confirmed drug related deaths out of the million surrenders and 45,000 arrested, making only.02% killed. (PDI: Kill list Feb 17)
Thus the 7,000 killed on orders of Duterte may be a guess. We need to ask them how they derived these numbers.
2. The numbers of surrendered (more than one million) and arrested (45,000), with cases resolved at are barely reported. This we can consider an error if unmentioned in articles quoting the drug war because it is a failure of context since it gives a false impression that everyone gets killed and that no one is arrested. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/863259/first-6-months-of-tokhang-1m-surrenderers-more-than-2000-dead)
It seems therefore, that some in the international media have this fixation on the drama and shock value of killing, whereas the hard truth is that an unprecedented number of arrests have been made.
Which brings us to a related point.
3.The more than million surrenderees so far, the 1.8 million estimated number of drug users reported by the Dangerous drugs board survey in 2015 may be a figure many already doubt. What may be more accurate are the previous figures that show a higher number of users at (6.7 million) in 2004. (http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/144331-data-drug-problem-philippines).
Having done research on government data for the last twenty years i have learned to take government surveys with some salt because the methodology may not be sound, or because results may have been written to favor a certain governmental agenda. Unlike the lists provided by the PNP, which are people we can verify, government surveys are not information we can verify, since surveys are based on a sample with respondents whose personal details are kept confidential.
Government surveys, however, are a benchmark, and that it is always diligent to assume that the 1.8 million person figure may actually upwards of 3-4 millon, not far from the numbers being quoted by the president, and close to the 6.7 million previous figure quoted by the same agency in a 2004 survey, as reported in a rappler article (http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/144331-data-drug-problem-philippines).
The 2004 survey is curious, since it raises the question of whether the 81% reduction is because the number of these addicts decreased?
Does the reduction being presented by the DDB mean that the shrinking has resulted in more users rehabilitated and released from drug bondage? Given the limited number of drug rehabilitation centers, we leave you to ask whether the reduction is accurate.
Unless the DDB can show how this figure went down, the Presidents estimate may be more believable. After all, who wants to admit to a DDB commissioned survey that he uses or sells drugs?
Moving forward, we really need to come to terms with using the right data if we intend to prove to the world that certain things about this country are true. Accuracy matters.
After all, it is the lives of people we are talking about, the victims who are saved from this menace, and those we will save from being addicts and pushers.
Painting someone’s death as a drug kill (like almost 5,000 out of the 7,000 deaths being carelessly quoted) only stains the reputation of the families they leave behind, adding stress and despair to an already gruesome end, passed off as a drug kill only to mask, for instance, a personal grudge, or even an accident. Those who intend to turn their deaths into drug kill statistics just to advance a political agenda had better examine their conscience. They have caused an injustice, and are disgusting.