Thinking, feeling about killing
The latest Social Weather Stations survey offers the Duterte administration both reassurance and an opportunity for reflection. A majority of voting-age Filipinos continue to voice support for President Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs. But a majority also say they fear they themselves or someone they know may fall victim to the so-called war on drugs.
In interpreting its own survey’s results, SWS found this particular finding to be the most important of all: 73 percent of respondents in the March 25-28 survey say they are worried (the survey questionnaire used “nangangamba”) that they or someone they know “will be a victim of Extrajudicial Killing or EJK.” The total is made up of 37 percent who say they are “very worried” (“talagang nangangamba”) and 36 percent who say they are “somewhat worried” (“medyo nangangamba”).
This is essentially the same (that is, within the margin of error) as the finding in the December 2016 survey, where 78 percent of respondents acknowledged their worries about falling victim
These findings should be paired with two parallel concerns. To the question about how important it was for the people suspected of involvement in illegal drugs to be captured alive (“gaano ka-importante na mahuli … nang buhay”), an overwhelming 92 percent said it was either “very important” (66 percent) or “somewhat important” (26 percent).
And to the question about police credibility, on “whether the police are telling the truth that the suspects they killed really resisted arrest,” only 24 percent say police officers were truthful. More people are of the opinion that the police are either not telling the truth (31 percent) or they (the respondents) are unsure of their position (44 percent).
Taken together, these findings paint a more complex picture of Philippine social reality than would a cursory look at survey headlines.
As in the previous administration, the incumbent President’s undoubted popularity has created a halo effect for his programs of government. To be sure, many Filipinos are also worried about the illegal drugs problem and about criminality, which in the view of many is related to the drug trade. It is not yet among the top three concerns Filipinos identify as their priorities, but it is certainly a real issue, a source of genuine anxiety. All this means that public support for the crackdown on illegal drugs is not merely a rally-round-the-flag phenomenon, catalyzed by a charismatic if controversial leader, but an authentic outpouring of concern.
But the more complex picture painted by the latest surveys (not just those of SWS but also of Pulse Asia) tells us that a substantial majority of Filipinos are worried that the crackdown is not being conducted properly, according to democratic processes or Filipino values.
What does it mean, after all, when a solid majority of Filipinos (70 percent) say the Duterte administration is serious about solving EJK cases, and yet only a minority believe in the credibility of the
police in the matter of extrajudicial killings?
What does it mean when a majority say they support the crackdown on drugs, and yet similar numbers point to anxiety among the people?
It must be noted that the last SWS survey was undertaken some time after the President called a temporary halt to his so-called war on drugs, after police officials were found to have kidnapped and then killed a Korean businessman under the aegis of the antidrugs campaign. This meant that even the Philippine National Police leadership had to acknowledge the fatal errors committed in the campaign.
The March survey, then, offers the administration an opportunity to reflect on the conduct of its signature program. There is real support for it, not simply manufactured. But there is also genuine concern. When the President of the Philippines disregards inquiries conducted by both the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate, and professes to believe the dishonest accounts of police officers involved in the execution of a person in detention, despite all the evidence, the ordinary man or woman cannot help but worry: “What about me? When the killings continue, what will happen to my loved ones, or to me?”
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