Is the government hiding the true magnitude of killings, crime and the drug problem?
Since July 23, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Free Legal Assistance Group have repeatedly written Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueño, and Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa asking the number, names, and circumstances of drug suspects killed, arrested, or surrendered in President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, plus their alleged killers, if known.
PCIJ and FLAG also requested from the DOJ, the DILG and the PNP “written guidelines, protocols or instructions from the President on how the PNP is to carry out its role in relation to the conduct of the ‘war on drugs’,” as well as those from Sec. Sueño, who supervises the nationwide police. The investigative journalists and human rights lawyers also asked for instructions on what to do with those surrendering.
In addition, they wanted to know how target suspects were picked: “Any list, enumeration, or document … used as an ‘Order of Battle’ involving known drug offenders, and any protocols, instructions, or guidelines on the manner by which this list, enumeration or document is verified, updated and/or authenticated.”
As of last Friday, one and a half months since receiving the PCIJ and FLAG letters, the DOJ, PNP and PDEA have yet to provide the information requested, or state if and when it can be given, and why.
This, despite various figures for deaths, arrests and surrendered suspects reported in media and provided to hearings in Congress. As of last Friday, here are the latest tallies according to media reports citing the PNP: more than 3,700 killed, 26,000-plus arrested, and some 730,000 surrendered from July 1 to October 7.
Without crime data, police are fighting blind
To be sure, some information requested may take months to compile and validate, especially names, circumstances of drug suspects killed, arrested or surrendered, and alleged assailants of the dead.
Other information may rightly be classified, such as the Order of Battle listing narcotics bosses, pushers and users. Make that public, and many on the list may go into hiding or arm themselves to the teeth, making arrests difficult and dangerous. And anti-narcotics campaign protocols and guidelines may help criminals take countermeasures.
But another reason for the delayed numbers may be the mess in PNP crime reporting and statistics under the Aquino administration, including gross underreporting, for which several police chiefs were investigated and suspended in 2013.
President Duterte and his law enforcement chiefs must swiftly address this grave problem to ensure that anti-crime efforts are correctly calibrated, targeted, manned and equipped based on accurate assessments of which crimes are most widely committed and in which places.
Just as the military needs to know where and how many invading troops or rebel fighters it faces, law enforcers must have correct and updated information on crime and its perpetrators. Otherwise, both soldiers and police are fighting blind.
The art of fudging PNP statistics
So how did the PNP crime data get messed up?
The crime reporting system was actually beefed up in 2009. Half a million crimes were tallied that year, about ten times the offenses recorded in previous years. And in 2010, law enforcers slashed incidents by about one-third to 324,083.
But the following year the fudging started. In the first half of 2011, Metro Manila crime surged 60 percent, prompting then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd to press the PNP for a massive crackdown.
The PNP seemed to respond as annual crime incidence dropped to about 200,000 in 2011 and 2012. But in 2013, several police chiefs in Metro Manila and other regions were investigated and suspended for misreporting crime.
When the corrected data was published, crime incidence had tripled since 2010 to more than 1 million in 2013. The surge continued in 2014, topping 1.1 million. And in August last year, the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, which compiles crime data, reported that incidents in the first half of 2015 were up 62 percent.
A day later, the PNP-DIDM head quickly retracted the report, claiming that so many reported offenses needed validation, even though it was already August, two months after the January-June data had come in.
What’s worse, data for all of last year never came out, at least not in the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Philippines in Figures data yearbook. The PSA’s PIF 2016 compilation, which should have come out in May, was published online only months later — and without the 2015 crime numbers.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that publishing a third year of million-plus crimes during the election month of May would not help Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas, who supervised the national police as DILG Secretary in 2013-16 when lawlessness shot through the roof.
There seemed to have been an attempt to make the crime numbers look good, but perhaps the data massagers feared their scheme might have provoked disbelief, if not decried as deception.
The 2015 PNP Annual Report, downloadable at < http://www.pnp.gov.ph/images/publications/PNPAnnualReport2015_opt_opt.pdf > includes data for the past two years, which presumably was available before the end of June, since the report is signed by the past DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.
What’s puzzling, if not disturbing, however, is that 2014 figures are far below the data found in the PSA yearbooks.
Total crime in 2014 was 1,161,188 in PIF 2015 and 2016, but only 714,632 in the PNP 2016 Annual Report. Index crimes were almost half a million in the PIFs, but just half that in the PNP report.
Crimes against persons showed even greater discrepancy: 258,844 in PIF, nearly triple the PNP report tally. Crimes against property was 231,005, about 60,000 more than data in the PNP annual report.
And surprise, surprise: The 2015 crime numbers in the PNP report were mostly down by double-digits from the previous year. Yet Roxas and the PNP never boasted about it.
Clearly, President Duterte and the nation must ask what the f***k is going on?