Huge drop in drug user numbers? OneNews.ph disputes DDB’s claim
EVEN WITH the COVID-19 crisis, the Duterte administration has continued to fix its attention on the “drug” problem, the object of his centerpiece policy campaign from the very start of his presidency four years ago.
In taped briefings to address the country during the pandemic, the president has repeatedly threatened to kill drug offenders. In his recorded speech at the United Nations General Assembly last September, he made a point to defend his war on drugs as necessary to rid the country of the problem.
Before the pandemic, he publicly bewailed that drug use has persisted as a plague in society and that he had failed in his objective.
But the Dangerous Drugs Board recently touted government’s alleged success in reducing the number of current drug users in the country. The DDB is the government’s policy-making body on drug prevention and control. In its press release on the 2019 National Household Survey on the Patterns and Trends of Drug Abuse, the DDB reported that only 1.67 million Filipinos are current users of drugs; that this was a “significant decline” from four million in 2016, which the DDB said was based on “anti-drug operations and intelligence data.”
CMFR cheers OneNews.ph for questioning this supposed decrease, as other reports merely repeated the news of the significant decline. OneNews.ph showed up the DDB’s deliberate spin on the numbers.
In the October 15 article “DDB: Number Of Drug Users In The Country Down To 1.67 Million, But Is It A Big Drop?“, OneNews.ph said that to measure its success, DDB “chose to follow the president’s figure” of four million, which was the number that Duterte gave in 2016; although the DDB in its own survey in 2015 reported only 1.8 million current drug users. The report said that according to the DDB itself, it did not use its own 2015 survey as baseline because it had different parameters from the 2019 survey, such as “proxy indicators and coverage of respondents.” DDB’s press release did not explain what these “proxy indicators” were.
OneNews.ph noted the following relevant points:
- The 2015 survey had 5,000 respondents, while the 2019 survey had 9,341 respondents.
- Duterte had initially estimated the number of drug users at three million and later changed the number to 4 million, without disclosing the source of this number.
- In 2016, Benjamin Reyes, who was then head of the DDB, said that the 2015 survey set the number at only 1.8 million, contradicting the president’s estimate. For this, Reyes was promptly sacked by Duterte.
Much of the media have refrained from fact-checking and criticizing the government’s claims of success in its many programs and policies. OneNews.ph stepped up and did the right thing to question the basis of DDB’s claim. Its conclusion: “If based on the figure given by Duterte, there has been a significant 58.25 percent decrease in the number of drug users. However, if the 2015 DDB survey is used as the baseline, the decrease is only about seven percent.” Clearly, the report presented the administration as cherry-picking through its data to be able to support some propaganda points. Journalists should ask: If the government is really winning the drug war, why does the president continue to speak as though it is still a major problem?