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Anti-drug campaign '55% complete' as death toll rises to 5,552 in latest report 

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Anti-drug campaign '55% complete' as death toll rises to 5,552 in latest report 
This photo taken on June 27, 2019, shows policemen at the crime scene where the body of a barangay (inner city neighborhood) health worker and former drug surrenderee Michael Oescayno, lies on the ground after unidentified gunmen.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — Representatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Philippine National Police presented the latest statistics on the updated social cards for Real Numbers PH at a briefing Thursday. 

They said the death toll resulting from Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs now stood at 5,552 drug personalities killed in official police operations. 

RELATED: The War on Drugs: In-depth reports and analyses on the government's bloody anti-narcotics campaign

From the period between July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2019, they said, a total of 151,601 anti-illegal drug operations were conducted which resulted in 220,728 arrests on top of the aforementioned casualties. 

Eighty thousand one hundred eighty-five of these arrests were also of high-value targets consisting of 222 foreign nationals, 297 elected officials and 82 uniformed personnel among others. 

In the same time period, 419 drug dens and 14 illegal drug manufacturing labs nationwide were dismantled by law enforcement authorities. A total of 5,182 kilograms of shabu worth P40.4 billion were also seized. 

Halfway there

Asked how the numbers fared in the overall drug war, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino estimated that "maybe about 55%" of all barangays were drug-cleared after citing that "more than 16,000" barangays had been declared drug free. 

However, he said the parameters of their progress were based solely on the drug-clearing efforts of the barangays. 

The PDEA chief said that the goal of clearing barangays by the end of Duterte's term was doable, but the challenge facing them was that "the remaining barangays are the most notorious barangays in terms of drug affectations."

READ: Duterte's offer for Leni not an admission that drug war failed — Panelo

"We are over halfway on our target para ma-cleared yung barangay by 2022," he said. 

"We are still crossing our fingers."

Real numbers PH is an initiative by the PCOO that documents and publicizes official data on the Duterte administration's so-called "war on drugs."

'They all fought back' 

The statistics presented, particularly on the number of deaths, are still a far cry from the number claimed by rights groups and activists, who say the death toll is already as high as 27,000. 

Even the PNP's own data has shown that 22,983 such deaths have occurred since the “war on drugs” began, but these were categorized as “homicides under investigation.” 

Of the deaths that the government did claim, all of them supposedly happened because the suspect drug personalities fought back according to police accounts, prompting uniformed officers to act in self-defense. All of these resulted in bloodshed. 

Aurora Parong, the chairperson of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court acknowledged on Tuesday that while self-defense is a valid reason to kill, it should always be justified. 

READ: Philippine Coalition for the ICC: Use of deadly force valid, but must be justified

Parong also said that police forces acting in self-defense should use force as a means to achieve immobilization and not to outright kill their suspects. 

Data without integrity 

Yet even the number presented at the briefing has been contradicted by one of the government's own agencies. While Real Numbers PH said on Thursday that the official death toll was at 5,552, Reuters in October reported that the police have admitted to killing "6,700 suspected drug dealers who resisted arrest." But as early as August, the PNP also said that the death toll was 6,847.

Earlier still, the PNP's "revised" number in July was lower than their previously-offered figure by a thousand. 

READ: Revised drug war death toll is thousand less than previous figure

Vice President Leni Robredo during her weeks-long term as co-chair of ICAD criticized the presence of conflicting data from government agencies. She said that the existing data consequently had no integrity and could not be trusted to inform decisions. 

But during the same press conference, Aquino criticized Robredo's performance, saying she did not properly consult with the clusters under the ICAD and their "people on the ground." 

READ: Robredo failed to meet with ICAD clusters — PDEA chief

However, he did admit that Robredo was right in pointing out the lapses in the existing body of data. He assured the public that the Dangerous Drugs Board was conducting its own "survey" on the number of pushers and users in the country.

DRUG WAR

ICAD

PDEA CHIEF AARON AQUINO

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