How many drug users in PH? DDB gets P15-M budget to find out

MANILA, Philippines – Is it 1.8 million or 4 million?

There have been debates on the number of drug users in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his controversial war on drugs in 2016.

That's why for 2018, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) already requested for a P15-million allocation in its proposed budget in order to "conduct a more accurate survey on the number of drug users."

"We're suggesting that they use the P15 million that they have requested from the committee on finance to good use by maybe getting a more reputable survey firm to conduct a more accurate survey, so we can more or less be certain whenever we deal with figures," Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Thursday, November 16, during Senate deliberations on the proposed 2018 budget.

Lacson, the sponsor of the DDB budget in the Senate, was answering Senator Risa Hontiveros' question on the number of drug users in the Philippines. (READ: Data in the drug war: Why accurate numbers matter)

During Hontiveros' interpellation, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III interjected to say that the 1.7-million figure was from a household survey that was conducted when he was chairman of the DDB.

"'Di nakakapagtakang umabot ng 3 million talaga by 2016 (It's not a surprise that the number has reached 3 million by 2016) because from 2011 to 2016, the fight against drugs was never really serious. So the 3 million or 4 million is not farfetched at all," Sotto added.

Hontiveros, however, clarified that the 1.8-million figure was actually generated in 2015 and is the DDB's "most recent figure."

Lacson then explained that the 1.8-million figure was from a survey done by a private firm, while the 4 million came from the Philippine National Police's Oplan TokHang.

"We've been getting some very conflicting figures and it's about time that we do a more accurate survey on the number of drug users, and that's the reason why we're appropriating P15 million for 2018 for that purpose," the senator added.

The conflicting figures even cost former DDB chairperson Benjamin Reyes his job. Duterte fired Reyes in May for contradicting the number of drug users in the Philippines.  

Lacson said the DDB's proposed 2018 budget is pegged at P150.93 million. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.