Real numbers in the continuing drugs drive

Published June 3, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


A total of 4,279 drug suspects have been killed, while 143,335 have been arrested in the anti-drugs campaign since 2016, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at the second anniversary of the #Real NumbersPH, a forum organized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

“These are the real numbers,” PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said. “All else other than these are either false, manufactured, or fake.” The PCOO said it was necessary to give the update in the wake of conflicting figures, with some international human rights organizations putting the number of dead as high as 12,000.

Part of the reason for this controversy was the failure of the Philippine National Police in the initial phases of the campaign to give comprehensive totals, even as they reported the killing of scores in several operations all over the country, saying that the victims had resisted and fought back – “nanlaban.”

When a case was filed with the Supreme Court about the killing of some 4,000 drug suspects, the court directed Solicitor General Jose Calida to submit the police records on the deaths, but he said there were security issues involved. This just served to bolster suspicions about the deaths.

Last Wednesday, Bangladesh in South Asia was in the news after two weeks of a “Philippine-style narcotics crackdown” that has raised concerns about extrajudicial killings. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said there is “no question” that those killed were drug dealers in answer to allegations by human rights groups that innocent people had died. “Most of those killed had guns,” Khan said. “They opened fire as soon as they saw the police.”

No wonder the Bangladesh report described it as a “Philippine-style” crackdown – “nanlaban.” And that country’s Human Rights Commission has also expressed “grave concern” over alleged extrajudicial killings.

In two weeks of the police operations in Bangladesh, about 100 were reported killed. That is a long way off the 4,279 that the PDEA said have been killed in the Philippines.

We in the Philippines have come to accept our anti-drugs campaign as necessary in the face of a drug menace that no one had expected to have become this big. Whatever excesses may have been committed in the past have now been corrected, with the PDEA in firm control of the nationwide drive, assisted by the PNP with its new leadership.

We look forward to regular reports through #RealnumbersPH, confident that with so many organizations coordinating with one another in this forum organized by the PCOO and other government organizations, we will be getting real numbers and not just feared totals in the continuing drive to eliminate the drug menace.