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Facts and feelings

Philippine Daily Inquirer January 08,2020 - 11:08 AM

Facts are inconvenient bastards. They don’t care about your feelings, as Ben Shapiro put it. You either have to put up with them, or ignore them at your own peril. Deny facts, and they have the habit of showing you up for a fool unable to accept and process plain reality.

And so it is with the massive rage and spleen that have been directed by the Duterte administration and its propaganda army at the report released on Monday by Vice President Leni Robredo detailing the facts and conclusions she had gathered from her 18-day stint as cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee On Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad).

“There’s nothing new with what she said,” huffed presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo — and yet, Malacañang and its allies and partisans promptly went into overdrive to summarily discredit the Vice President’s findings, without apparently having read through the 40-page report.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the chief executor of the drug war during its first months as then police chief, called Robredo “ignorant.”

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino described the report as “a mere political attack against President Rodrigo Duterte.”

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno waded into the fray by dismissing Robredo’s assessment as “unfair.”

And Malacañang factotum Lorraine Badoy, of the Presidential Communications Operations Office as “undersecretary for new media,” was reduced to spluttering on Facebook that Robredo was “the most stupid, the most lazy, the most incompetent vice president this country has ever had.”

None of them, however, offered anything beyond their agitated feelings and ad hominem urges to counter the straightforward but crushing facts laid out in the report: that, more than three years into the administration’s brutal antidrug war, with thousands killed and billions spent on President Duterte’s centerpiece program, barely 1 percent of the total projected illegal drugs and money circulating on the streets have been curtailed — a shockingly dismal figure.

And not a figure plucked out of thin air. Robredo cited the government’s very own data, from the Drug Enforcement Group of the Philippine National Police, to point out that, while drug users are projected to consume 3,000 kilograms of shabu per week or 156,000 kilograms per year, the government managed to seize only 1,344.87 kilograms in 2019, 785.31 kilograms in 2018 and 1,053.91 kilograms in 2017.

Likewise, official estimates say around P1.3 trillion worth of shabu money are in the country every year — but only some P1.4 billion were seized in 2017-2018.

“This is less than 1 percent of the money circulating from the drug trade,” said Robredo.

“Hindi lumampas sa isang porsiyento ang naipit natin sa supply ng shabu at sa perang kinita mula sa droga,” she added. “Kung exam ito, ang magiging score ng ating pamahalaan ay 1 over 100. Mula sa datos na ito, makikita natin na kinakailangan ang pagpalit ng stratehiya” (We were able to constrict less than 1 percent of the total supply of shabu and money earned from drugs… If this were an exam, the government’s score would be 1/100. From this data, we can see that there’s a need to change the strategy).”

Is there anybody other than the most partisan and fanatical who would contest the sober, rational nature of those statements?

The idea that the brutal drug war may not, in fact, be making much headway is not even original to Robredo. In April 2019, Mr. Duterte publicly rued that his pet program had “failed” and was “worsening.” His words: “There are billions [of pesos] worth of drugs. Before, it was only thousands. Drugs, I cannot control, son of a b—h, even if I ordered the deaths of these idiots… Drugs has always been there. It even intensified.”

How different is that assessment from Robredo’s? And yet Robredo’s report, based on the government’s own facts and carrying a list of sensible recommendations to improve the implementation of the program — among them, designating the Dangerous Drugs Board as the lead agency instead of Icad, establishing accurate and updated baseline drug data (Aquino himself admitted in a press conference on Dec. 12: “Tama ang discovery ni Robredo na walang scientific baseline data ng drug users in the country [Robredo is correct that there is no scientific baseline data for drug users in the country]”), refocusing efforts on pursuing drug lords and high-value targets, and implementing evidence-based drug prevention programs — has been swiftly thrashed by an administration that insists it is dead-serious about crushing the drug menace.

“It’s a dud,” said Panelo of the report. But the unhinged, incoherent reactions in the power corridors emphatically show otherwise. More devastatingly, so do the numbers.

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