At least 73 percent of the Filipinos believe that the number of illegal drug users has dropped since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in July 2016, a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.
The SWS survey, conducted from December 13-16, 2019, found that around 28% of the number said the drug users have “fallen a lot” while 46% noticed the drug personalities have “fallen somewhat”.
On the other hand, 14 percent of Filipinos believe that the number of illegal drug users have increased while 12 percent said it stayed the same.
In March 2019, Duterte said there are 7 to 8 million drug users in the country, which is double his estimate of between 3 to 4 million users in 2016.
Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) showed that a total of 151,601 anti-illegal drug operations have been conducted resulting in the arrest of 220,728 individuals and 5,552 suspects killed from July 2016 to November 2019.
In the same period, a total of 2,799 children involved in illegal drug activities were rescued during anti-drug operations.
A total of 8,185 high-value targets (HVTs) have also been arrested from July 2016 to November 2019, it added.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo welcomed the recent SWS survey results as “a fact the Filipinos feel in their communities”.
“This is what matters most – a genuine and meaningful change. This is the reason why President Duterte continues to enjoy massive approval and trust from the Filipinos,” Panelo said.
However, the same survey found that 76 percent of Filipinos believe there have been many human rights abuses in the administration’s war on illegal drugs, and 24 percent say there have been few.
Panelo said the Palace is unsurprised with the survey finding, noting that the Administration’s war on drugs has been “demonized” by the President’s critics, the political opposition, and some media outlets.
Denying that the extra-judicial killings (EJKs) were state-sponsored, Panelo said the President’s critics continued to tag them to the government’s drug-related operations.
“This constant vilification have gained an undeserved currency,” Panelo said.
The Palace official reiterated that drug-related deaths are the result of violent resistance by the suspects in buy-bust and police operations and that law enforcers simply practice self-defense.
Other deaths are results of internecine or killings within the drug organization, he added.
To successfully eliminate the illegal drug trade, Panelo said “aggressive strategies” were required against those who have been used to being coddled by those in power.
Panelo emphasized that regardless of the consequences of his drug war, Duterte remained “obedient” to the constitutional command to serve and protect the people.
“The President is unconcerned about the popularity of his policies,” Panelo said.
He assured the public anew that the government will continue to uphold human rights of its citizens as it continues to enforce laws in eliminating illegal narcotics.
State agents who abuse their authority will be punished, he added.
“As the President says, as against them, there will be hell to pay,” Panelo said, encouraging victims or witnesses to alleged abuses to file complaints so that justice will be served.
The SWS survey also showed that 44 percent of Filipinos believe that the President was sincere in appointing Vice President Leni Robredo as Co-Chairperson of ICAD, while 27 percent say he was insincere.
Meanwhile, 56 percent said they already knew about Robredo’s removal as ICAD co-chair at the time of the survey, while 43 percent said they learned about it only during the interview for the survey.
It also found that 49 percent agree that Robredo’s sacking was an admission by the administration that its war on illegal drugs is failing.
On the other hand, 21 percent disagree that her removal is an admission that the drug war is failing while 30 percent were undecided about the matter.
Robredo was appointed as co-chair at ICAD on Oct. 31 to help Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino in efforts to curb the drug menace.
She was originally tasked to assume the role of ICAD co-chairperson until June 30, 2022 but was stripped of her role following her failure to present new measures in curbing the drug proliferation in the country. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)