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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Is killing people an accomplishment?

If so, then President Duterte and the people he has appointed to implement his war on drugs can rightly claim to have put up a stellar performance last year, which might even be surpassed this year. This deserves rousing applause if he lists this as his top accomplishment in his forthcoming State of the Nation Address this month.

As of Nov. 27, 2017, the Philippine National Police reported it had killed 3,967 drug “personalities” and arrested 118,287 individuals after conducting 79,193 “legitimate” antidrug operations. Human rights groups dispute this number; they put the number of extrajudicial killings in the name of the war on drugs to be at least six to seven times more than the PNP’s figures.

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The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also disclosed it has seized P18.9 billion worth of drugs since the President’s antidrug war at the beginning of his term in the second half of 2016. As a result of its high-profile and intense antidrug campaign, the PDEA has declared 4,747 barangays “drug-free.”

Both the PNP and PDEA enumerated the above numbers as their measure of success in the performance of their respective mandates, in response to criticism of the massive fund increases for the Office of the President’s “confidential and intelligence” funds. What all these mean is that, if the killing spree continues, the authorities can again claim astounding success in their performance vis-à-vis their huge intelligence funds.

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The numbers cited by both the PNP and PDEA do not include the thousands of people (mostly civilians) killed and displaced in the Marawi siege from May 23 to October of 2017. If we go by the benchmarks of success used by the two agencies, then Mr. Duterte’s handling of our national security affairs is truly exemplary.

From 2013, the allocation for so-called “confidential and intelligence funds” remained stable at only P500 million until the end of former president Noynoy Aquino’s term. But starting 2017, President Duterte was given a whopping P2.5 billion for the same purpose. In one year, the amount of “intelligence” funds Mr. Duterte’s administration spent was equivalent to what his predecessor spent in six years.

Trust is important in the use of such huge funds; the Commission on Audit cannot subject them to the same stringent scrutiny it applies to all other government expenditures.

Last year, at the height of the Marawi siege, military spokespersons tried to placate the restive Maranaw by saying it would not take more than a few weeks to rid the place of the “terroristic” Maute. They also said the Maute was confined to less than 500 meters of what is now called the Most Affected Area. At the same time, several military personnel were hit by what was called “friendly fire”—a misnomer, to say the least.

After the Marawi siege had dragged on for five months, government spokespersons reverted to a lame excuse—that there was a “failure of intelligence” in miscalculating the terrorists’ armed strength and geographical range.

So was the use of the “intelligence” funds intelligent, in the real sense of the word?

Killing people, many of whom may not be guilty of what they were suspected to be, is a distorted measure of performance or accomplishment, especially for an administration with such a huge “intelligence” budget. Maybe it is high time to rename the funds. That money could be better used to support serious, genuinely intelligent studies on why the number of people in the drug trade has not abated, and why there is terrorism in
the first place.

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TAGS: Illegal drugs, Killings, PDEA, Philippine National Police, State of the Nation Address
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