Opponents of President Rodrigo Duterte have taken so much liberty at criticizing him no end that they have become reckless in their choice of weaponry. Statistics and statistical inferences, their weapons of choice, have backfired on them.
It will be recalled that Duterte was elected president by a landslide on a campaign promise that he will use the strong arm of the law in eradicating the drug menace plaguing the Philippines. That pledge obviously meant the use of force in enforcing the anti-narcotics laws of the land.
Upon assuming office in July 2016, Duterte kept his campaign promise and declared an all-out war on drug lords and their confederates. After Duterte reorganized the Philippine National Police, he ordered the nation’s cops to launch a nationwide offensive against known, powerful drug lords who had evaded arrest and prosecution.
When the police dragnet yielded bodies of suspected drug dealers almost on a daily basis, it became obvious that Duterte was serious about his anti-narcotics campaign. This prompted many small time drug pushers and addicts to surrender to the authorities. The number of drug users who gave up was so large, new facilities for drug rehabilitation had to be constructed.
That figure should not be surprising because the extent of the drug menace inherited by the Duterte administration from ex-President Benigno Aquino III was revealed to the public when the news media reported that convicted drug lords detained at the national penitentiary were enjoying special treatment, including air-conditioned quarters, catered food, and access to cash, firearms, mobile phones, and the internet. Upon further investigation, the Department of Justice discovered that then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima received millions of pesos in bribe money from the detained drug lords in exchange for the special accommodations afforded to them in prison.
A desperate De Lima, who placed last among the winning senatorial candidates in the May 2016 elections, tried to divert public attention from her alleged role in the drug scandal at the national penitentiary. Her strategy was to accuse Duterte of masterminding numerous deaths in his anti-drug campaign.
Opponents of President Duterte saw a political opportunity in de Lima’s sweeping accusations against the president. From then on, anti-Duterte groups began branding every death resulting from the anti-drug operations of the PNP as illegal, and attributed the same to Duterte. His opponents also stressed to the news media that the number of deaths arising from these deaths, which took place during police investigations and operations, increases exponentially everyday.
Duterte’s critics were so vocal about their resolve to discredit the president that they criticized him and his anti-drug campaign even in social media.
There are numerous flaws in the bleak and disturbing scenario painted by Duterte’s critics.
Since the imposition of the death penalty is disallowed under current Philippine law, courts cannot allow the execution of criminals. This does not mean, however, that all deaths that take place in the course of law enforcement took place illegally. A judically-sanctioned imposition of the death penalty is one thing—it is not allowed by current law. Death arising from the enforcement of the law during police operations is another.
Be that as it may, it is recognized in this jurisdiction that police authorities are authorized by law to use deadly force against suspects or criminals who refuse to cooperate with law enforcers during a lawful raid.
The biggest flaw in the accusation against President Duterte is in the figures themselves. To repeat, Duterte’s critics have taken so much liberty at criticizing him no end that they have become reckless in using statistics and statistical inferences to discredit him. The figures cited by anti-Duterte elements have been repeatedly and indiscriminately padded by the same critics with such reckless frequency that the numbers are not only too incredible to believe; they conflict with the figures cited by other anti-Duterte groups.
This revelation was made recently when representatives of the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and other line agencies organized a forum which revealed the real, unadulterated statistics and statistical inferences relating to Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. The forum was held at a hotel at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City, with netizens all over the country joining the discussions through the social medium Facebook. Many others watched the forum on the government television channel.
At the forum, the PNP Directorate for Investigative and Detective Management disclosed that from July 2016 to March 2017, there was a huge decline in the number of recorded crimes, particularly murder, homicide, robbery, theft, carnapping, and physical injuries. That number, 78,900, was far less than the 158,900 cases recorded from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, when Aquino III was president. For reasons undisclosed, critics of Duterte have conveniently overlooked these figures.
Incidentally, President Duterte has directed the PDEA to lead all operations against illegal drugs, after incidents involving policemen who committed abuses in the anti-drug campaign surfaced. Those erring cops were subjected to appropriate sanctions.
At any rate, a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in December 2016 but released only in March 2017 indicates that an estimated 82 percent of the people in Metropolitan Manila feel safe because of the PNP’s war against illegal drugs.
Another recent survey done by Social Weather Stations indicates a 66 percent popular approval for the government’s war against narcotics, although this was less than the 77 percent approval rating generated in December last year.
The PNP spokesman attributed the 11-point decline in the survey to bad impressions survey respondents likely got from sensational news coverage of deaths attributed by the president’s critics to his anti-drug campaign.
He also lamented the proliferation of certain survey questions designed to elicit anti-government replies from the respondents.
Statistics aside, what is clearly more lamentable is the inability, or even outright refusal, of Duterte’s critics to suggest feasible solutions to the drug menace in the Philippines. All they have against the president are their ill will, and their conflicting, misleading statistics and statistical inferences on deaths arising from the strict enforcement of anti-narcotics laws.