Human rights in the drug war | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Human rights in the drug war

/ 05:05 AM January 18, 2020

Of several survey items that SWS recently reported on the administration’s drug war, the one with greatest consensus is the perception of abuses of human rights (“Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 76% of Filipinos see many human rights abuses in the administration’s war on illegal drugs, 24% see few,”, 1/12/20). The said 76 percent (correctly rounded), consists of 33 percent calling the abuses very many (napakarami) and 42 percent calling them somewhat many (medyo marami).

Perceived drop in the usage of illegal drugs. Slightly below the 76 percent who are concerned about the volume of human rights abuses is a 74 percent who perceive that the number of users of illegal drugs has fallen since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016. Of the 74 points, only 28 say it has fallen a lot (bumaba nang malaki), while 46 say it has fallen somewhat (bumaba nang kaunti). This tells me that the people’s concession of the war’s desired impact on drug usage is not as intense as their concern for human rights.


Approval of the right of VP Robredo to know the HVTs. The item with the third-highest consensus was about the right of Vice President Leni Robredo, when she was cochairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad), to see the list of so-called High Value Targets in the illegal drug trade. Sixty percent say she had the right to see the list, and only 15 percent say she did not; 25 percent are neutral on this matter.

Approval of the UN move to investigate EJKs. Fifty-five percent agree with the move of the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings committed in the drug war. Only 19 percent disagree, while 24 percent are neutral. Thus, Mr. Duterte’s repeated attempts to vilify the UN for “interfering” in our domestic affairs are not popular with the people.


Implicit failure of the war on illegal drugs. Half of all Filipinos (49 percent) agree with the proposition that the removal of political oppositionist VP Robredo from her position as Icad cochairperson was an implicit admission by the administration that its war is failing. Only 21 percent disagree with this; 30 percent are neutral.

Duterte’s sincerity in appointing Robredo. Nevertheless, a strong plurality of 44 percent say that President Duterte was sincere in appointing VP Robredo to the Icad. Only 27 percent say he was insincere; 29 percent are undecided.

Satisfaction with Robredo’s Icad performance. When asked to rate what VP Robredo did while with Icad, 44 percent were satisfied, while 26 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +18, which is classified as Moderate. (This item, inadvertently missing from the 1/12/20 SWS report, was added on 1/15/20.)

Public opinion on the drug war is mostly unfavorable. The December 2019 SWS survey shows Filipinos as critical of the drug war, except that they concede that the usage of illegal drugs has fallen.

The presidential spokesperson’s claim (BusinessWorld, 1/14/20) that EJKs occur because of “violent resistance by the suspects in buy-bust and police operations, endangering the lives of the law enforcers hence their resort to self-defense sanctioned by law,” has few believers. Eight SWS surveys from December 2016 to September 2019 all show strong rejection of the “nanlaban” excuse (“Third Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 29% of Pinoys do not believe police claims of ‘nanlaban,’ 26% believe, and 45% are undecided,”, 12/22/19).

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TAGS: drug war, EJK, human rights, SWS, Vice President Leni Robredo
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