ONE drug agency has finally dared to present an answer to the glaring discrepancy between President Duterte’s count of drug addicts/users in the country, and the official count (by drug agencies) of drug addicts/users. Its answer is “fake statistics.”
I think it is best called “fake statistics”, so that it will be accorded as much pseudo-respectability as “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Who is to say that one form of fakery is more respectable than another?
I refer here to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) which, under Director General Isidro Lapeña, has formally revised its official figures on the national drug situation, in order to shoehorn them into what the President has been saying over and over in his speeches at home and abroad – that there are 4 million drug addicts or more in the country.
On May 1, as if to mark Labor Day, Lapeña announced that
1) The drug problem in the country has now become “a national security threat.” By self-declaration, Lapeña has also mutated into a national security expert, who can connect drugs with national security.
2) President Duterte’s often cited figure of 4 million drug addicts in the country is actually incorrect, because according to Lapeña “the real number is 4.7 million,” based on PDEA’s own count.
No base of facts and figures
The statement hit me between the eyes because I have been lamenting in this column that Duterte went to war with no reliable base of facts and figures to support his drastic and deadly policy. The official figures of PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) did not confirm the President’s claims.
In this, the drug war matched US President George Bush’ war on Iraq, which was waged on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and must be preempted. US inspectors spent weeks looking for WMDs everywhere in Iraq, and could not find a single one.
I have also lamented here the fact that President Duterte’s international critics—international human rights organizations, international media, and UN human rights bodies—have not produced reliable figures on the drug situation through the normal means of investigation and verification. All they have done so far is make claims against Duterte and his government, as though they have a right to their own facts.
Senate probe on PDEA statistics
With PDEA’s new statistics, I submit that there is now a compelling need for the Senate (forget about the House) to conduct an inquiry on the veracity and basis of PDEA’s revised statistics. It should do so through the Congress’ power of oversight and in keeping with the public interest.
The Senate should summon Lapeña to answer questions on how his agency gathered the data to suddenly revise its official records and declare officially that there are now 4.7 million drug addicts in the Philippines, instead of just 1.8 million as previously tabulated.
Lapeña should be asked how the number of addicts doubled to 4.7 million during the past 10 months, in the middle of the drug war when, according to the PNP, the campaign has dramatically reduced the illegal drug trade and placed tens of thousands of drug users in jail or in rehabilitation.
If the claims of Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas were worthy of a Senate inquiry, this claim of PDEA is indubitably more meritorious. On its authenticity or falsity may well depend the lives of thousands of citizens.
PDEA is clearly a government agency subject to congressional oversight. The Dangerous Drugs Board should be similarly summoned, because it is the one that claimed to have authenticated the figure of “1.8 million” through an actual survey of the national drug situation.
These agencies should be placed on record on their respective comments on the administration‘s drug policy and statistics.
Oversight, simply defined, is the action of Congress, through hearings, investigations and other techniques, to exercise control over the activities of executive agencies by overseeing or supervising how legislation is carried out by the executive branch.
A Senate inquiry on the PDEA’s activities will be consonant with the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act as passed by Congress. So far, the PDEA and DDB have gotten a free pass in the drugs war controversy, because it’s President Duterte who has been taking the flak all the time.
It’s time for them to take the hit and the heat.
Falling on their own swords
If the Senate blue ribbon and public order committees are courageous and independent enough to conduct an inquiry, PDEA and DDB will very likely be tied up in knots by their own false claims. Their respective numbers, if they have lied, will trip them up. They will fall on their own swords.
Our drug officials must testify whether there was any pressure from senior officials for them to adjust their figures on the drug situation, so these will favorably conform with the President‘s claims.
A foreign reader informs me that if there is truth to the doubling of drug users to 4.7 million in less than one year, it would make the Philippines worse than Colombia and Mexico.
We face this absurd predicament, because fakery increases when the truth, and solutions, no longer matter, and officials are solely concerned with political rewards and propaganda.
State sovereignty vs human rights
I want to disclose lastly that in my research, I have come upon significant material and documents that show how various leaders with gravitas have seriously questioned the extravagant claims of human rights advocates against the sovereign authority of governments.
Margaret Thatcher devotes a chapter in her book, Statecraft, to the subject of human rights and the excessive claims on their behalf. She opposed to the last the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Believe it or not, the “iron lady” even had a few good words to say about Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
Human rights and state sovereignty will be the subject of my column on Thursday. I will finally comment on the strange case of Ms Agnes Callamard, whose credentials and work have been questioned.