MANILA, Philippines – If President Duterte raised his estimate of Filipino drug users to 7 to 8 million, he just wanted to “challenge” law enforcers to also step up their fight against illegal drugs.
This was the assessment of the spokespersons of both the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the big jump in the number drug users, whom the president said were "reduced to slaves to a drug called shabu."
"The President is a very good tactician and strategist. He may have upped the estimates to challenge law enforcement to do more. So, we take it as a challenge... We don't take it on a bad note that there are more," said NBI deputy director and spokesman Ferdinand Lavin said during the February #RealNumbersPH forum in Camp Crame.
Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, the PNP spokesman agreed with Lavin. Banac said: "He just wants to, you know, go ahead one step of us, so we are trying our best also to, you know, get our acts together, and keep in step with the President."
The officials in the forum were repeatedly pressed by reporters to explain President Duterte's recent drug users estimate, which is millions away from his pronouncements of 3 to 4 million in 2016 and 2017. It also way above the official estimate of the Dangerous Drugs Board, which pegged the number of drug users at 1.8 million in 2016.
Both the PNP and the NBI did not know where the President's figures came from. (READ: ‘We don’t know where the President gets his statistics’ – PNP)
The surge in the President's estimate of drug users has stirred questions on the effectivity of the so-called drug war his administration is waging. Lavin, however, said that their achievements over the years speak for themselves.
Some 119,841 anti-drug operations have been completed, leading to the arrest of 170,689, and the death of 5,176 ever since Duterte assumed office up until January 31, 2019.
Human rights advocates pegged the kills higher, estimating that over 20,000 have been in drug operations plus vigilante-style killings believed to be inspired by Duterte's "war on drugs". – Rappler.com