THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), through its deputy director general for operations, has sent The Manila Times and this columnist an extensive reply on the issues I raised against PDEA in my column (“Fake statistics: PDEA’s contribution to the drug war,” The Manila Times, May 16,2017).
In fairness and in recognition of the right of reply, I will yield my column today to the position the agency expressed on the issue of “fake statistics.” I shall limit my comment on the letter to the end of my column.
I welcome the PDEA letter because this is the first time (so far as I can tell) that the agency has gone on record on its statistics on the Philippine drug situation. Until now, the media and the public could only access the conflicting numbers of President Duterte and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Readers should judge for themselves the credibility of PDEA’s account of how it came up with its statistics on the drug situation.
PDEA’s letter to the Times
This has reference to the column “Observer” authored by Mr. Yen Makabenta entitled “Fake statistics: PDEA’s contribution to the drug war,” which was published in the Manila Times on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
The story has to do with the alleged “fake statistics” involving the country’s total number of drug dependents declared by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during the “#RealNumbersPH” Forum held on May 3, 2017 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Quezon City. According to the column, PDEA’s figure, which states that an estimated 4.7 million Filipinos are currently using illegal drugs, was aptly modified to concur with the earlier pronouncements to the public of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
In behalf of the Director General of PDEA, please allow me to put the record straight. First of all, the cited datum was constructed based on facts and exact science and that alone is by no means dubious.
As of April 20, 2017, a total of 7,760,795 households, or 34 percent of the 22,975,630 total number of households in the country (source: Philippine Statistics Authority), have been visited by personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the conduct of “Oplan Tokhang” revisited. The “knock-and-plead” campaign led to the voluntary surrender of 1,266,966 drug personalities, comprised of 88,940 pushers and 1,178,026 users, nationwide. These surrenderers, who admitted their involvement in the illegal drug trade, have actual faces and profiles stored in the PNP’s databases.
Using the formula of ratio and proportion: the number of houses visited is to the number of drug surrenderers is equal to the total number of households nationwide is to X. Based on the statistical computation, with a margin of error of 20 percent, or those who remained uncooperative with law enforcers during the house visitation, it is therefore proper to say that the real number of drug users in the Philippines has reached 4.7 million.
In addition, a plausible assumption that can be derived from these figures would allow us to conclude that for every eight households in the country, there is at least one drug user present.
According to the 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines, a survey commissioned by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) showed that there are 1.8 million drug users in the country. A minimum of 5,000 respondents at 95 percent level of confidence were taken from the representative sample of the population under study of those ages 10-69 years old to determine the number of users among children, youth, workers and other high risk groups.
Disparity of PDEA and DDB numbers
Yes, PDEA and the DDB survey have a large disparity in numbers. However, a closer look would reveal that the latter’s study was done in 2015 way before the occurrence of drug personalities voluntarily surrendering to authorities at the onset of the war on drugs.
The DDB survey is respondent-based, a method used to explore the responses of the people in the communities, either through questionnaires and personal interviews. The likelihood of these results may have lower probability because hardly anybody will admit that he or she is hooked on illegal drugs, whereas PDEA has relied on the profiles of self-professed drug users and pushers who turned themselves in, as national estimate to determine the magnitude and extent of the drug problem.
PDEA has dug deeper and slowly uncovering the real and massive drug situation. We are on the warpath with a P120-billion illegal drugs trade industry that threw its full weight across the nation, leaving nothing but trails of suffering in families, criminality, corruption and economic stability (sic) in its wake.
At present, 47 percent, or 19,710 of 42,036 barangays or villages, are affected by illegal drugs. If the community is drug-affected, potential dangers lurk in the shadows everywhere, making people feel unsafe and insecure. We all know full well that heinous and street crimes are usually fueled by drug use.
Thanks to the 4.7 million drug users, transnational drug syndicates continue to flourish because they found a huge market in the country. The lucrative drug trade has also corroded the rule of law as several government and police officials were tagged as protectors and coddlers of syndicated drugs.
In his declaration that the illegal drugs are a serious threat to national security. PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña is a person who has been in the actual situation on the ground. He has in possession anti-drug information and intelligence materials at his disposal, The PDEA chief certainly knows what he is talking about.
At any rate, PDEA would submit to any Senate or congressional probe if summoned. We welcome the inquiry to clarify how the “real” statistics have come about.
Deputy Director General for Operations Officer-In-Charge, PDEA
Three counts of drug users
Filipinos must now wrestle in their heads with three counts of drug users in the country:
• DU30’s count of drug users—4 million
• Dangerous Drugs Board’s count of drug users—1.8 million
• PDEA’s count of drug users—4.7 million
DU30 reached his count before he formally acceded to office. During the 2016 election campaign, he already dropped the number “4 million” before election campaign crowds.
The DDB commissioned a professional group to undertake a national survey to determine the number of drug users in the country. It released the survey results in 2016.
PDEA got its count of 4.7 million by extrapolating the data from the ongoing anti-drug war being conducted by the Philippine National Police.
The PDEA count took off from the number of households that the PNP visited in its Oplan Tokhang, and from the high number of drug “surrenderers”. It used a formula of ratio and proportion: “the number of houses visited is to the number of drug surrenderers is equal to the total number of households nationwide is to X.”
By statistical computation and giving itself a margin of error of 20 percent, it came up with is its “real” number of drug users in the Philippines: 4.7 million.
PDEA also calculated that one in every eight households in the country has one drug pusher within its fold.
PDEA did not answer a question raised by my column: how did the number of drug users double or spiral to 4.7 million, while the drug war was raging, and thousands were being killed or jailed?