Senate Minority Leader Senator Franklin Drilon has criticized the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for failing to provide correct and reliable data that can aid the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Drilon raised the issue amid the confusion brought about by conflicting statistics on the anti-drug campaign, which even caused the sacking of a top official of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Last May, President Rodrigo Duterte fired DDB chair Benjamin Reyes for saying that there were only 1.8 million drug dependents in the country, way below the 4.7 million figure cited by the President and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“The law provides that the data produced by the PSA shall be the official and controlling statistics of the government,” said Drilon during DDB’s budget hearing on Friday.
Citing Republic Act No. 10625, or the Philippine Statistical Act of 2013, Drilon said the PSA should be primarily responsible for all national censuses and surveys, sectoral statistics, consolidation of selected administrative recording systems and compilation of the national accounts.
Sen. Loren Legarda, the Senate finance committee chair, responded that the PSA “merely relies on the data submitted by an inter-agency body composed by the Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice,” among others.
To which Drilon responded, “To me, that is very discomforting if we are just relying on the data of the police who may have other motives or agenda in dishing out statistics.”
“I cannot understand why a major policy thrust of this administration, which is solving of the drug problem, is not supported by reliable data from the PSA,” he added.
The senator said that relying solely on data from the police was a “problem.”
“What is PSA for if it will not have its own independent data? I cannot believe what I’m hearing. We have no independent data upon which our policies will be based,” Drilon added.
Drilon said that in crafting the correct government policy, having reliable and correct data is crucial: “Reliable data should be the basis of policy. Kung mali-mali ang data, mali-mali ang polisiya na ating gagawin. We should shift to data-driven policy-making, especially in this war against drugs, instead of generating suspect data for the sole purpose of backing up policies already made.”
He also pointed out that the expertise of PSA and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) can be put to good use, advising that the agency conduct its own survey concerning the extent of drug problems in the country.
“The PSA and Neda can shed light on this issue that has long been the subject of confusion and debate. I suggest that PSA and Neda utilize their budget and capability in coming up with reliable data that could aid the government in crafting sound and better policies,” Drilon said.
“This is not rocket science. Certainly finding out the number of drug dependents is a matter that can be determined by appropriate surveys,” he added.