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Study: Drug war deaths rise and fall with Duterte’s words

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This file photo taken on October 3, 2017, shows Nanette Castillo grieving next to the body of her son Aldrin, an alleged drug user killed by unidentified assailants in Manila. — AFP

A STUDY has found government declarations and public sentiments significantly determine number of deaths in the anti-drug campaign.

“The number of deaths over time show significant increases and decreases in response to government declarations and public scrutiny of the ‘drug war’,” Dean Ronald U. Mendoza, Ph.D., Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said.

Mr. Mendoza was citing one of the findings of their study on the Philippne Government’s Anti-Drug Campaign, which was a product of two research projects funded by the Ateneo and De La Salle University.

The study was based on publicly-available information on killings associated with the government’s war against illegal drugs.

According to the study, 39 deaths were recorded on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first day in office on July 1, 2016, after he gave orders to hold “immediate and simultaneous” drug operations.

Killings, meanwhile, dipped on January 30, 2017, when the President directed the Philippine National Police to suspend operations in the aftermath of the death of South Korean national Jee Ick Joo.

For his part, Michael Ll. Yusingco, non-resident research fellow of the Ateneo School of Government, highlighted the role of local government units in preventing abuse in the drug war.

He explained that while the national government may dictate policies, it is the duty of the local government to protect the community.

“Local government must have the mindset (of) ‘wait a minute, we are here to protect the community, not the interest of the national government,’” Mr. Yusingco said. “In cases, especially when human rights are involved, when lives are involved, the community must be the premium for local government officials.”

Senior Research Fellow, Clarissa C. David clarified the study only took into account the 5,021 casualties which had publicly available information, gathered through news stories and other public data.

“The data set was built for the purpose of providing evidence-based policy recommendation and for the research community to use it in their own monitoring of the patterns that may reveal ways to improve… approaches pursued by the government,” Ms. David said.

She added: “It (data set) represents the nearest probable number of deaths of this kind during this time period. However, this is, to our knowledge, the largest database of detailed information about individual killings existing outside government.”

In the study, 40% of deaths were recorded in the National Capital Region, with 2,000 killings from May 2016 to September 2017. Nearby Bulacan had 644 deaths, had the highest record across all provinces.

Police claimed that, of 5,000 individuals, 47% were small-time drug dealers, 8% were alleged drug users, and 1% were said to be drug couriers. Only 1% were narco-politicians and another 1%, police officers. More than 2,700 were killed by policemen on duty, majority of whom died in the course of buy-bust operations. — Charmaine A. Tadalan