Having taken the job of co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), “vice president” Leni Robredo has vowed to “get the facts straight” on the actual situation of the Philippine Government’s on-going “War on Drugs”. Considering that this initiative is being criticised for what many describe as its unnecessarily “bloody” nature, part of an effort to get the facts straight is to get the death toll statistical record straight.
As co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Robredo is expected to get full access to information, including investigation reports into police operations which resulted in deaths.
“The first thing that VP Leni will do is to really get a good grasp of how big the problem is,” [Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson and legal advisor] told ABS-CBN News.
“As the person tasked with leading government effort on anti-illegal drugs, she has to have that information.”
Indeed, this is an opportune time for an outsider who is now an insider to address the mystery that continues to persist. How many have died?
There has been a great deal of debate about the death toll, with competing claims made by police officials, the government and human rights groups.
Separate investigations are currently being carried out by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
That the numbers remain debatable has not stopped so-called “news” outlets like “social news network” Rappler from “reporting” one number or another as fact. Back in 2017, Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao cited the dishonesty with which Rappler had been demonising the Duterte government using these so-called “death toll” figures.
I had emailed Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria and the researcher who wrote the piece, Michael Bueza, two weeks before I wrote my exposes on their epic lie, requesting if they could clarify to me how they got the 7,080 figure. They didn’t respond at all, not even a “no-comment” or mind-your-own-business reply.
It is so unfortunate and unfair for our country that Rappler’s 7,080 number has been swallowed uncritically by the European Union Parliament, the Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, USA Today, and by most foreign media, exaggerating by a third the number of those killed in Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Rappler had long been criticised for what has been consistently described as its “biased” approach to news “reporting”. As such, it would be interesting, now that Robredo is an insider in the government’s War on Drugs, to observe what sort of slant Rappler “reporters” would put to stories around Robredo’s efforts to get the “actual” death toll statistics.
In this regard, Robredo has, at least, this aspect of the job cut out for her. Her getting on top of the facts on the true casualty count broken down by cause and circumstance of death and then standing by these numbers would be a welcome validation — or indictment, if the facts tell so — of the Philippines’ on-going War on Drugs.
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