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War on drugs: Success or failure? Who knows?

When Rodrigo Duterte ran for president in 2016, he focused on three major issues: corruption, crime, and drugs. The question that should be asked, after 57 months into his 72-month term, is: Has he succeeded? Our measure of success will be the government’s own targets as set out in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 (PDP)

If you ask President Duterte himself, or if you listen to his assessment, directly or as reported in the press, he has not succeeded, at least with respect to corruption and drugs.

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Looking at the latest Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development (StatDev) compiled by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)—StatDev “aims to serve as an early warning measure by showing the likelihood of achieving the economic and social development goals set forth in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), including the midterm updates”—one finds that the likelihood of achieving the targets are “Low,” with respect to corruption, meaning that the government has a less-than-50-percent chance of achieving them.

What are some of the corruption targets? There’s the Control of Corruption Indicator, in which the government sought to increase its percentile ranking in the World Governance Indicators (WGI) from the 42nd percentile in 2015 to the 50th percentile in 2022. What happened? As of 2018, the WGI indicates that instead of improving, we regressed. Our percentile ranking went from 42nd to the 34th percentile. That’s a huge dip.

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And there’s the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The PDP targeted that our percentile rank rise from 43rd to 50th. Instead of improving, we deteriorated to the 37th percentile in 2019.

The PDP also targeted an improvement in our percentile rank in the WGI’s Government Effectiveness Indicator. It was a modest target: from 58th percentile to 60th percentile in six years. Alas, during the Duterte administration, the Philippines deteriorated again: to 55th percentile.

So, the PDP indicators do support President Duterte’s assessment with respect to corruption. Failure.

Are there any indicators in the PDP that would help us determine the government’s performance with respect to drugs and crime? After all, Chapter 18 of the PDP, entitled “Ensuring Security, Public Order and Safety,” is devoted to the topic, where it is emphasized that the administration accords it “high priority,” and that “all forms of criminality and illegal drugs (are to be) significantly reduced.”

Well, Reader, know that of the 647 indicators that are included in the Results Matrices of the PDP, none of them have to do with crimes or drugs. Why in heaven’s name not? Because, I am told, of national security reasons. I kid you not. This means that the PSA, thru StatDev, cannot monitor the effectiveness of the police or drug-related programs. Only the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency can do so, and we must take their word for it.

So while crimes, drugs, and corruption were the battle cry of the Duterte campaign, in the case of crime and drugs, we have no baseline indicators (what it was like). Neither do we have targets to be achieved by 2022. Except maybe in the hearts of the concerned agencies, not to be shared with anyone but the President, presumably. One does not even know whether they exist. And if they did set out those targets, only President Duterte is aware of them and can make an assessment.

Which is why Mr. Duterte’s self-assessment—that his administration has failed with respect to the drug problem—can only be taken at face value. Understand, we are talking about the success or failure of these programs, using the government’s own standards as our metric.

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One can only wonder: What is so delicate about crime and drugs that national security could be endangered by transparency surrounding the targets for their vanquishment? There is no dearth of published statistics on crime and drugs by the PNP and PDEA in government websites. Why were they not required to give the PDP what their targets were, so the PSA could monitor their performance with the same rigor that is applied with respect to other government agencies, like Agriculture, Trade and Industry, etc.?

It makes no sense. But then, what does, in this administration?

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TAGS: corruption, crime, Duterte, Illegal drugs, PDEA, PNP, war on drugs
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