Senators: SWS poll proves Filipinos feel scared, unsafe under Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Monday, December 19, said the new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey is proof that the rise in extrajudicial killings is a security risk and "cause for concern" for Filipinos.

Senators from both the majority and minority blocs said the public's fear over summary executions is "expected" and "understandable."

From July 1 to December 14, there have been 6,095 deaths, both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation).

"Based on statistics, since July 1, someone is killed every 40 minutes daily and so fear for one's safety is bound to surface," Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a text message.

"The poll results are proof that people do not feel safe in the streets. The only way to address this is to stop the daily killings and put an end to vigilante murders," he added.

Senator Grace Poe shared the same sentiment, adding that the fear the public feels now could even be part of Duterte's goals. The fear, she said, is all the more fueled by the administration's "apparent inaction" against police officials involved in killings.

"Sadly, one can't help but think that such fear is exactly what the President wants to achieve as part of his solution to the problem [of illegal drugs]," Poe said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said the growing number of killings is a "cause for concern" and that the survey results confirm it.

"We are all against illegal drugs but our war on drugs resulted already to at least 6,000 dead and 3,000 killed by vigilantes. We are not sure if they are all criminals because we have denied them of due process. Some of the victims are children. Surely, what is happening should really be a cause for concern and the recent survey is the affirmation of that," Villanueva said.

For Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, the public's fear that they too would become victims of extrajudicial killings isn't surprising at all.

"That's expected. I am one of them," Recto said in a text message.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV – another member of the minority – said the survey results disprove the claim of the administration and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano that Filipinos feel safer now than before the President took office.

"That basically debunks the Duterte administration's propaganda line that our people feel safer now than before they assumed power," Trillanes said.

"Sa January magkakasingilan na ng mga pangakong napako (In January, Duterte would be held accountable for his undelivered promises)."

The SWS survey, conducted from December 3 to 6 among 1,500 adults nationwide, found that 78% of its respondents were worried they could be the next victims (45% "very worried," 33% "somewhat worried"). (READ: Most Filipinos 'worried' about summary killings – SWS poll)

Of the respondents, 10% were "not too worried" while 12% were "not worried at all."

A majority of respondents also believe the issue of extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration is a "serious" problem (39% "very serious," 30% "somewhat serious"). Only 3% think the problem is "not serious at all" while 22% were undecided. (READ: Impunity: In the name of the father)

'Follow the law'

With the heightened fear of the public, senators said it is high time for the Duterte administration to follow the law and "reconsider" other options in its war on drugs.

While Recto expects the President's rhetoric to stay the same, he said the government should "reduce" the killings and go after suspects.

"Definitely (they should follow the law). I expect government to reduce the killings. File charges when appropriate. Although rhetoric will be the same," he said.

For Villanueva, there are far more effective methods to end the problem of illegal drugs.

"There is empirical evidence that support more effective policies in helping individuals with drug addiction. We should pursue other options. It is time for all of us, especially the government, to reconsider other options," he said.

Poe, for her part, said it is the state's responsibility to secure the people by following the rule of law and assuring citizens that their rights are protected.

"The state has the duty to assure the people, not by mere words but by positive actions, by pursuing the war with the might of the rule of law and the value of the life of every Filipino is respected in the process," she said. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email