Social Climate

Policemen as villains

/ 05:06 AM March 02, 2019

Today’s piece summarizes, chronologically, the recent series of SWS survey reports about the war on illegal drugs, and relates it to a major Washington Post (WP) story about the same.

A decrease in illegal drug users. On 2/16/19, SWS issued the report, “Fourth Quarter Social Weather Survey: 66% of Filipinos say the number of illegal drug users in their area has decreased.”


I commented (Opinion, 2/23/19): “However, the administration’s apparent success in reducing drug usage should be qualified by the universal public disapproval of its use of lethal means to enforce the President’s will. The December 2018 survey also found 95 percent calling it important that the police capture the drug suspects alive. This pro-life sentiment has been intense in three consecutive surveys since September 2017.”

Increases in victimization by crime and in anxieties about public safety. On 2/22/19, SWS issued a report titled, “Families victimized by common crimes rise to 7.6%.” The said report was also subtitled: “Fears of burglary and of walking the neighborhood streets at night rise” and “Noticeability of drug addicts stabilizes.”


The point was clear: The reduction in illegal drug usage was being offset, on the other hand, by a worsening of other aspects of public safety.

The WP article. On 2/22/19, WP published “This is Manila,” a lengthy, graphic story that began on Jan. 14, when a dead body was found floating under a bridge near the Pasig. It was an EJK victim, with legs and arms bound with rope, head wrapped in packing tape, and body chained and padlocked to a pail filled with concrete. The victim was Ferdinand Jhon Santos, aka “Dingdong,” 44 years old.

The WP story went: “When asked about the Santos case, Manila police told The Post that they could not open a full inquiry without a witness stepping forward. Thousands of other cases face the same dead end: no witnesses, or, if there are, they are too scared to speak. In private, however, families allege that local police engineer the killings. In return, the police dare them to prove their claims.”

The administration’s reaction was typical: It cited only the SWS finding that drug usage had fallen, and omitted other findings on public opinion about the war on drugs.

Policemen as villains. The collateral damage of the deadly war on illegal drugs includes the people’s loss of trust in the police. On 2/27/19, in “28% of Filipinos do not believe claims of ‘nanlaban,’ 28% believe, and 44% are undecided,” SWS reported six surveys since December 2016 all showing that only one in four Filipinos believe the police claim that they kill the suspects in self-defense.

Even worse, the great majority of Filipinos see policemen as drug war villains themselves, rather than as the people’s protectors. In December 2018, 68 percent considered the accusation that “some policemen are involved in the illegal trade” as either definitely or probably true. This proportion was 70 percent in April 2017.

In the same survey, 66 percent considered the accusation that “some policemen are involved in extra-judicial killings of alleged suspects in the illegal drug trade” as definitely/probably true. It was 65 percent in April 2017.


There were 57 percent that called the accusation that “some policemen often plant evidence against suspects they arrest” as definitely/probably true. It was 58 percent in April 2017. Filipinos have been very skeptical about the police for at least two years already.

Fear of being an EJK victim. An SWS report for posting on 3/1/19 says, “Fourth Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey: 78% of Pinoys worry about becoming victims of extra-judicial killings or EJK.” This is the consistent finding of four SWS surveys on this matter since late 2016; they bolster the WP story.

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TAGS: opinion, Philippines, policemen, SWS, villains, war on drugs
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