A right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts



“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
— Daniel Patrick Moynihan

First word
Moynihan’s witty dictum applies in all contentions in public life. It, too, must apply in the drug war that has enveloped our national life like a boa constrictor ever since Mr. Rodrigo Duterte became our President.

My repeated request through this column for a fact sheet on the Philippine drug problem – which can serve as a benchmark for evaluating the drug war – has suddenly been rewarded in spades. I find myself swimming now in a sea of facts and statistics.

First, the Dangerous Drugs Board, our drug control policy-making body, presented on Monday, Sept. 19, the results of its 2015 survey of drug use in the country – the latest official figures hereabouts.

Second, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), also on Monday, released a veritable “mother of all reports” on the drug war – a comprehensive and incisive review of the administration’s campaign, first taking off from DU30’s anti-drug campaign in Davao City and landing in the frontlines of the current nationwide war effort.

The substantive facts provided by these reports undercut the extravagant claims of the President’s declaration of war on drugs.

Just as in George W. Bush’s war on Iraq, wherein the White House fruitlessly searched for the war-justifying weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) of Saddam Hussein, so Malacañang is hard put to find the drug pandemic (a characterization supplied by one Palace communicator) to justify the brutality of the drug war.

Where’s the pandemic?
When President Duterte launched the war on drugs at his inauguration, he had only a gut feeling about the scale of the problem. But he went hammer and tongs on the issue. He declared that there are some 3.7 million or more drug users or addicts in the country. And he promised the nation a relentless and bloody war against illegal drugs.

When we set the thoroughly researched figures of DDB and PCIJ, side by side with DU30’s figures, the discrepancy is so wide it is hard not to think that President Duterte has supplied his own facts to justify the drug war and its heavy toll on human life.     President Duterte is unarguably entitled to his own opinion and alarm about the drug menace threatening our society. But he is not entitled to manufacture his own facts as he wars with persons allegedly involved in the drug trade as either supplier or consumer.

It is in a way commendable that the drugs board, under its newly appointed chairman, did not venture to adjust upward the survey results, in order to level up to the President’s hyperbolic portrayal of the length and breadth of the drug menace.

DDB survey and fact sheet
The survey commissioned by the Dangerous Drugs Board estimates that there are 1.8 million current drug users in the Philippines, or 1.8 percent of the total population of 100.98 million.

The 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines, released on Monday, reported that the current drug use prevalence among Filipinos aged 10 to 69 years is at 2.3 percent, or an estimated 1.8 million users.

Filipinos aged 10 to 69 years comprise 75 percent of the total Philippine population as of 2015.

Current drug users refer to individuals who are currently using or have used illegal drugs more than once from Jan. 1, 2015, until Feb. 5, 2016.

The 2015 figure is higher than the 1.3 million drug users estimated in 2012 and 1.7 million estimated in 2008.

Commissioned by the DDB, the new survey on the national drug abuse situation was conducted by Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies Incorporated (REECS) from Dec. 5, 2015 to Feb. 5, 2016, among 5,000 respondents across the Philippines. It has a ±0.9 margin error.

The 2015 survey results show that the lifetime drug use prevalence is around 6.1 percent of the same sample population.

This means that 4.8 million Filipinos have used illegal drugs at least once in their lives – less than the estimated 7.1 million in 2008.

DDB Chairman Benjamin Reyes says the government’s drug campaign needs to focus on prevention to “curb the problem.”

“As much as possible, we are trying to prevent the 4.8 million to not try using illegal drugs again,” he said. “Our key message to them is for them not to use illegal drugs because the retention rate is high.”

Retention rate refers to the percentage of drug users that will continually use a specific illegal drug.

The 2015 survey results show that drug retention rate is currently at 28 percent for shabu and 24.7 percent for marijuana.

DDB and other government agencies will use the findings of the latest survey to curb the drug problem.

Reyes explained: “The findings have implications on policy and implementation of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. We need to recalibrate our programs based on the findings.”

For example, while most current drug users thought about quitting illegal drugs, it is not common for them to initiate seeking medical help.

Reyes says that different government agencies, such as the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), will soon implement community-based treatment and rehabilitation for drug users to complement the law enforcement efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The government has nominally a balanced approach to the drug problem. Unfortunately, however, what is highlighted is law enforcement, and there is not enough interest in the treatment and rehabilitation approach.

DU30 does not promote balance when he declares that “a drug user is a drug pusher,” or that drug addicts are hopeless human beings just awaiting death.

War on drugs: a chaos of numbers
The report of the PCIJ, entitled “War on drugs: No EO signed by DU30, a chaos of numbers,” provides a different perspective on the drug situation. http://pcij.org/stories/war-on-drugs-no-eo-signed-by-du30-a-chaos-of-numbers/

The report consists of:
A narrative account of President Duterte’s campaign against drugs from his time as Davao City mayor to his current position as President;

Various facts and statistics selected or highlighted to serve a journalistic point;

A number of interviews with police and government officials; and

The shocking revelation that the drug war is not backed up by an official executive order.

The report is comprehensive, incisive and unsparing. If DU30’s drug war seeks to leave no hole for drug suspects to hide in; this report leaves no room for official double-talk, and no shelter for false claims and false statistics.

The report is most impressive and entertaining in tackling what it calls the chaos, or see-saw, of numbers in the drug war – based on reports of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

It opens in dramatic fashion:
“More than 20 years ago, Davao City was turned into the laboratory for its then Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war against illegal drugs. Now that he is President, Duterte has mounted a reprise of that war across the nation, saying that he is ready to put his honor, life, and presidency on the line for it.

“This time around, Duterte commands an armed contingent that is a hundred times bigger than it was in Davao, and his “enemy” a thousand times more numerous. The “achievements” and casualty toll of his war are thus multiple times higher, even if it has been only 80 days since he was sworn into office.”

It closes with an anecdote on DU30’s grotesque definition of Utopia.

Six more months of war
This fact sheet and report are, I submit, must reading for all those who want to know and understand the Philippine war on drugs – its background, its progress, and its prospects.

They will be useful in evaluating the plan of the administration and the PNP to extend the duration of the drug war by six more months, and the determination of the President to fight off any attempt by the international community and civil society to hold the government to account for violations of the rule of law and human rights.



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  1. The guy walking the streets at night has the more accurate data. People relying on ‘facts’ provided by survey firms are the ones sitting in their offices and use chauffeur driven cars. They must validate their ‘facts’ by steping out of their abode and trying walking the streets manila.

  2. Walter KOMARNICKI on

    the phrase ‘recreational drugs’ is an oxymoron – there ain’t no such thing.
    all drugs have side effects, some more deadly and quicker than others, but none life enhancing.

  3. I wonder Mr. President DU30 can finish the drug problem during his term of office as President of the Philippine Republic. Having zeroing only all efforts to the drug problems by targeting illegal drug users and peddlers but without trying to stop the illegal drugs from the sources and sources themselves, Mr. President Du30 will never succeed in his hard work to stop the ongoing flow of drugs. Too much already had been killed by either police and extrajudicial killers from among illegal drug users and peddlers, but no news have been convicted and jailed from among illegal drug producers and police generals, judges and mayors or those in powers. Mr. President DU30 could have save the life of all those poor people who had been killed, had he stop the production of illigal drugs by asking his police to go after them first. Who should be stop first from among them: illegal drug Users, illegal drug peddlers or the illegal the drug manufacturers?

    • Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino was arrested in a house along with another person that was found to contain 64 kilograms of suspected shabu placed worth P320M, assorted chemicals, and other laboratory equipment.

      Marcelino claimed he was on a legitimate intelligence mission

      Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva dismissed the case for “insufficiency of evidence.”

  4. Makabenta is entirely correct. What happens if Duterte just made a guesstimate to justify his killings of poor people and not the Chinese drug lords. For the past few months, I never heard anything that any of the famous drug lords were brought down by the Duterte cops most especially the Chinese. Why is Duterte so scared of the Chinese?

  5. He said he will resign right? Another blunder and awaiting for his Jest Speakers to defend him.. It was a joke, there was a misunderstanding,, etc, etc.

    Too Proud Pilandok, now kinakain niya ang bawat pinapangako niya… #GODOpposesTheProud…Remember that.

  6. Get rid of the thieves in Congress who have been stealing billions every year via the pork barrel fund, the DAP fund, the Yolanda funds and hundreds of other ways they scam the budget for themselves.

    Awarding contracts for kickbacks or to their relatives is common practice. A quick look at the number of scams conducted by these corrupt officials accounts for the breakdown in the infrastructure of the country.

    Developing a honest government would benefit the country more than shooting poor people for being drug users.

  7. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    22 September 2016

    In this column of his, “A right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts,” Yen Makabenta demolishes the claim underlying Der Fuhrer Rodrigo Duterte’s lawless megalomanic genocidal warrantless extrajudicial killing of those SUSPECTED of being involved one way or the other in the illegal drug problem, that the problem is systemic or of such extent and scope as to fully justify declaring a “State of Lawlessness.”

    That simply is not so; the underlying justification is a BIG LIE.

    Time magazine now warns that “Night has fallen on the Philippines” under the despotic governance of a President Duterte who has egregiously and blatantly violated the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law, the Rules of Court, and even the UN Declaration of Human Rights–all of these long-established SAFEGUARDS AGAINST ABUSE BY GOVERNMENT or against violation of HUMAN RIGHTS.


  8. Du30 formed a cabinet that is disorganized, unprofessional, and media savvy. He himself enjoys being applauded evertime he curses, high profile personalities. He doesn’t think (I am convinced) that he doesn’t have the average intelligence at all. His actions are mainly driven by his emotions.
    He just doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. One thing he is good at: KILL anyone who gets in his way.
    I don’t know how he passed the bar exam. He doesn’t think logical at all.

  9. The president got his figures from General Santiago. He was the head of PDEA durinng President Arroyos time. I would take his word for it rather that DDB who is probably using data from the Aquino administration .

  10. Looking forwards into a perspective outlook. War begins if not following a simple task and rules as what a leader command. Ever since DU30 promised to sweep all anti-crime activist to vanished and make the country the best for the citizens living safety.

  11. There were over 700 thousand of drug users and pushers who surrendered. This can easily prove that there are more people hooked on drugs. If the issue is on the number of actual drug users, I do not see the reason why we need to belabor the issue except to recognize we really have a big problem on drugs!

  12. Bonifacio Claudio on

    makaBENTA, galing na mismo sa tao mismo at sa mga Reports ng mga Barangay, PNP, PDEA, etc ang basehan ng mga deklarasyon ni PRRD… Ikaw ba ang paniniwalaan namin base sa mga reports ng third party??? Kami na mismong mga tao ang nagpapatunay sa katotohanan ng mga pahayag ni Du30… Kung baga ay kami ang LAMAN at kayo ang PINAGTALUPAN — MAHIYA naman kayo na pinaghahalo halo ninyo ang balat sa tinalupan!!!

  13. The fact that there were hundreds of thousands of drug users and pusher who turned over themselves to the authorities is enough yo believe that our country is in deep trouble..Drug boards and PCIJ could have missed the facts..there are still hundreds of thousands or millions drug addicts there who refused to turn up and not accountable that is a big probability!!

  14. I am happy and prefer to see drug addicts, criminals, and corrupt government officials removed from the streets and from government offices than reading statistical analyses to prove that the ongoing war on drugs and crimes is a wrong solution to the realities in the streets.

  15. sir..talamak po ang problema sa droga sa bansa natin…ewan ko kung saan kayo nakatira pero hindi nyo ba nakikita sa paligid nyo ang problema?…or sa mga balita man lang sa dyaryo, radyo, tv at internet?..dapat natin supportahan ang gera sa droga dahil sinisira na nito ang kinabukasan ng ating nasyon..peace.

  16. Are those the only sources we have? I don’t think those are the only resources available for the president. Besides the subject of survey is about drugs. We know as filipinos we are ‘shy” on telling the truth when it comes to drugs. Come to think of it 1.8 million discounting the error margin is already a lot. Also can you please post the specific of the survey? I would like to know how spread the sample is and other data such how many uses shabu, how many uses marijuana and how many uses both.

    According to the facts you have provided above. 3million is not impossible after all the numbers you mentioned speak for itself. That 1.8 million figure could easily blow up to 3 million discounting the .9 percent error margin.

    1.8 million for users who at least tried twice + the (4.8million who tried once * 28 percent retention rate for shabu) + (4.8 million who tried once * 24.8 percent rentention rate for marijuana)

    1.8 million + 1.344 million(shabu at 28% retention) + 1.1856 million(marijuna at 25% retention) – number of users user both.

    That’s about 4 million drug dependents according to the figures you provided which is higher than the estimates provided by Duterte

  17. Another one, war on terror created by Bush is a HOAX. IRAQ, LIBYA, SYRIA. There is no central bank of the globalists in these countries and they don’t want to use PETRODOLLAR, that is the WHY.

    Remember 9/11? Bush, a puppet of the globalists, and Saudi Arabia are the culprits and terrorists. Obama did not sign the findings of US congress that Saudi Arabia pay damages to the victims of 9/11.

    Our president DU30 knew that Obama is the worst president USA has ever had.

  18. What do addicts normally do? Crimes against person and property, right?
    If you say there is an estimated 1.8M is on drugs, each one will make crimes vs. property and person, take this, one crime=one addict/pusher, therefore , crime statistics is under-stated. If each one of them will do twice = 3.6M crimes.

    The president is on the right track.UN is against “War on Drugs” Why? See the migration on US borders and refugee “kuno” done by the UN in Europe. Who is El Chapo? Creation of the GLOBALISTS trying to take-over humanity.

    Remember BREXIT, Merkel of Germany, next is Hollande of France.

    That is why this globalists are very angry with Putin and Donald Trump. They are anti-globalists.

  19. Makabenta, the drug war does not only target the drug users and the drug lords/peddlers. drug business another by-products is corruption by our highest gov’t officials. Digong claims that by 6-10 years phils will be a narco politics is inaccurate because as of today we are already a narco politics. you very well know what I mean, your a member of the fourth state.

  20. Leodegardo Pruna on

    The nation is engulfed in a serious problem of illegal drugs. Between police blotters and reports and those of survey outfits which at most rely on perception, the reports should be the preferable one because it is factual. The result of the war on drug cannot be likened to that of Iraq as this problem has to be solved by us, the Filipinos, not by any other. The comparison made with that of Bush’s decision is out of order and context. The fact that the trading of drugs has become difficult and beyond reached in cost are indicative of moving in the right direction. God bless our President. God bless the Philippines.

  21. The fact is we have millions of drug users. So what do you suggest the president will do about it because his figures are wrong. Just neglect it?

  22. I do believe that 1.8M is a very conservative estimates. Maybe, survey was conducted in subdivisions.

    Never in my existence that I feared walking down the streets untold this past few years. Surprised me that even in a far flung Bario in my two hometowns(Batangas and Bataan) there is proliferation if shabu. Surprised that our neighbors son and husband is now detained in jail due to drug abuse. My cousins are likewise hooked on shabu that our relatives and even his family feared him. Once one of my uncle who has a son hooked on drugs contemplated on just killing his son after nothing happened in the rehabilitation of their son. Until now while my uncle already passed away, his son goes in and out of the rehab.

    This is why I’m thankful that now there is s president who cares and knows the real situation .

  23. Is the 2015 figure of 1.8 million believable compared to 2008 and 2012 figures of 1.7 and 1.3 million, respectively.

  24. Define pandemic. If you had 1.8 million Filipinos sick of the Zika or ebola virus wouldn’t that be enough to push you to undertake desperate measures, pandemic or not? Would you rather wait until we reach the magic number of 3.7 million first? As George Bush said when he was rallying support for his Iraq invasion, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” So why exactly are you against Duterte? Because of human rights and the rule of law? When did America ever observe these principles when dealing with their enemies? Too much adherence to abstract ideas can make you blind to the danger that is already in front of your face. If you are ever confronted by a pack of drug addicts out to rape your wife, believe me, you would rather have a gun in your hand than a book on political philosophy.

    • Exactly right. You won’t feel the heat by being holed up in your desk in a comfy home. Try going undercover where the action takes place; perhaps then you would appreciate how frightening that number is, whether it be 1.8 or 3.7 million. It doesn’t take a lot of drug-crazed psychos to wreck havoc, and that changes the perception of what qualifies as pandemic.

    • You made a very good statement comparing Zika and drug problem in the country today. I am with you..but I am just confused why a lot of these human rights talk and other hypocritical articles seem to be so engrossed with defending the drug lords and the addicts, rather than us law-abiding citizens.

    • Clever quotation; but, what’s that got to do with the drug problem? Let’s say that the 3.7 million that the President has cited is exaggerated, (I’m not saying that it is), and that the 1.8 million cited by the DDB and the PCIJ is correct.; what kind of measures will you adopt to fight it? Will you just watch it grow until it gets to your desired figure and becomes a “clear and present” threat to citizen and country? This seems to have been the strategy of all past administrations…how did that work? Finally, we have a President who cares enough to do something about it…even at the cost of his reputation, position and/or life. I should think that the least we can do is support his efforts at eradicating the ‘drug menace’; and, yes, even wrestle to understand that there would be…not just collateral damage, but some unintended consequences as well. The “shabu-lizing” of the entire country isn’t just possible. It was in fact happening.