MANILA - The Presidential Communications Operations Office on Sunday denied that it has been inconsistent with its pronouncements on the number of deaths under President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
This comes after investigative group Vera Files called out PCOO Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael Banaag who recently slammed United National High Commissioner for Human Rights chair Michelle Bachelet and Iceland Minister of Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson for using “unfair estimates” in sounding the alarm against Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Iceland recently called for UN action to address supposed human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
In a speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Banaag said that Bachelet and Thordarson’s estimate that as many as 27,000 Filipinos have been killed in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs since 2016 was ‘sweeping and baseless.”
Banaag said that based on the government’s official data #RealNumbersPH, there have been 5,425 deaths under Duterte’s drug war. Both Bachelet and Thordarson, she said, may have been referring to the 16,355 homicide cases under investigation recorded by authorities from 2013 to 2018.
Vera Files, however, pointed out that the Supreme Court in 2018 asked the government to explain the more than 20,000 deaths in the drug war, which was based on the Duterte Administration's 2017 Yearend Report:
“The Duterte Administration's 2017 Yearend Report states that there were 3,967 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations (from) July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017, and 16,355 homicide cases under Investigation (from) July 1, 2016 to September 27, 2017. This is a total of 20,322 deaths during the Duterte Administration's anti-drug war from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017, or an average of 39.46 deaths every day. This
Court wants to know why so many deaths happened as expressly reported under the section Fighting Illegal Drugs of the Duterte's
Administration 2017 Yearend Report,” the Supreme Court’s April 2, 2018 Resolution read.
In a statement, PCOO Assistant Secretary Ramon L. Cualoping III pointed out that the 16,355 homicide cases under investigation that was cited in the latest government data on drug killings may not have been drug-related at all.
“HCUI may have resulted out of road rage, land dispute, business rivalry, family dispute, love triangle, crimes of passion or politics, what may be considered as drug-related incidents are those where the victim is killed by non- government elements because he/she is an alleged informant or the victim is killed and/or raped and killed by a person who uses drugs,” Cualoping said in statement.
“The PCOO did not contradict anything. If any, Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael only emphasized in her pronouncements what the government has been saying all along: that the numbers external institutions are quoting are computed inaccurately—skewed to push a certain agenda, and that is to discredit the Duterte administration, the State, all of us,” he said.