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IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs'

Exasperated by the illegal drugs menace in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte has waged an all-out campaign against it since he assumed office.

True to the President's word, the "war on drugs" has been bloody more than 4 years into his administration.

Here are the numbers in the anti-illegal drug campaign according to the government, and from other sources that keep track of these statistics.

This page will be updated regularly.

Death toll

Noticeable is the huge disparity between official statistics and numbers cited by human rights groups that have contact with people on the ground.

Based on the government's official count through its #RealNumbersPH campaign, only 5,942 drug personalities have been killed in legitimate police operations as of October 31, 2020. Before that, however, on June 18, 2019, the Philippine National Police (PNP) itself reported a higher number: 6,600 drug suspects killed as of May 31, 2019.

Meanwhile, a report by the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020 said that around 8,663 drug-related killings have occurred: 5,601 deaths in police operations from July 2016 to January 2020, plus 3,062 "deaths under inquiry" which are drug-related from July 2016 to February 4, 2019.

Human rights organizations said that as of December 2018, the death toll could reach as high as 27,000, to include those killed outside police operations.

The PNP and the #RealNumbersPH campaign previously included statistics for "deaths under investigation" (DUI) or "homicide cases under investigation" (HCUI) which were broken down into 3 categories of cases: drug-related, non-drug-related, and those with motives still undetermined.

These HCUI figures are no longer included in the government's latest releases, with a presidential communications official explaining that they've decided on this to avoid these figures being "mangled with other numbers."

Based on data that Rappler obtained in June 2018, here’s a breakdown of HCUIs, as recorded by the PNP:

In March 2019, Rappler got updated data, showing that as of March 18, 2019, there have been a total of 30,145 homicide incidents or cases, but of the number, 11,098 were "under investigation" because the remaining 19,047 were tagged as "cleared," with at least one suspect identified. The March 2019 data did not contain the 3 categories earlier listed for HCUIs.

[Editor's Note: Rappler previously reported at least 7,000 deaths in the #WarOnDrugs as of April 2017, based on figures from the PNP. Read our explanations on the changing figures here and here, as well as view a timeline of the PNP's use of the term "deaths under investigation".]

Other gov't figures on the drug war

The government has also released the following statistics related to the drug war.

These were recorded from July 1, 2016 to October 31, 2020 through its #RealNumbersPH campaign.

Anti-drug operations

High value targets arrested in anti-drug ops

Changes in statistics reporting

Here’s a timeline of the changes in the government's manner of reporting its "war on drugs" statistics to the media since the start of the anti-drug campaign. 

As of 6 am of September 14, 2016, the number of suspects killed in police operations reached 1,506. But during a Senate probe on extrajudicial killings that day, then PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa said that after validation by its Directorate for Operations, the figure was corrected to only 1,105 deaths.

As of October 15, 2016, the number of policemen killed during operations stood at 13, while there were 40 wounded.

On October 19, 2016, deaths among police personnel rose to 15, while the number of wounded was revised to 36 after validation. The PNP broke down the casualties into drug-related and non-drug-related incidents, then reported only the drug-related casualties afterwards (7 dead, 24 wounded).

On October 26, 2016, the PNP launched Phase 2 of Oplan Double Barrel. After this, the statistics that the PNP started sending to media were "reset" to zero. However, on November 2, the PNP returned to its cumulative count from July 1.

On November 7, 2016, the PNP returned to reporting the total casualties, doing away with its categorization the month before. 

Police involvement in the "war on drugs" was temporarily suspended on January 30, 2017, when Duterte instructed the PNP to first rid its ranks of corrupt personnel. This was after some policemen reportedly got involved in the kidnap and murder of a South Korean businessman in October 2016. 

Weeks later, on February 27, 2017, the President allowed the PNP back into the "war on drugs" campaign, but with limited participation through smaller task forces.

On March 6, 2017, the PNP officially relaunched its participation in the "war on drugs," in a campaign dubbed Oplan Double Barrel Alpha Reloaded.

The PNP initially started keeping track of Double Barrel Alpha Reloaded statistics from March 6, based on messages sent to the media. But in its data update on March 30, 2017, the PNP readjusted the start date earlier, to March 1.

Around March 2017, the PNP changed the term, "deaths under investigation." In a report that Rappler requested, the PNP used the term "homicide cases under investigation" or HCUI, which were further classified into 3 types of incidents: drug-related, non-drug-related, and those whose motives had yet to be determined.

On May 2, 2017, the government launched its #RealNumbersPH campaign, its new manner of disseminating statistics related to the "war on drugs." Compared to past media releases, it no longer included figures on the number of houses visited as part of Oplan TokHang.

Starting in its August 2017 update, the #RealNumbersPH social media graphics also no longer included the number of surrenderers.

In October 2017, the PNP's role in the "war on drugs" was suspended a second time, after President Duterte made the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the sole agency in charge of the anti-illegal drug campaign. The PNP resumed providing active support to PDEA in December 2017.

The #RealNumbersPH figures that were released showed complete HCUI figures from March to June 2017 only. From January to March 2018, only drug-related homicide cases were announced. Since then, #RealNumbersPH figures totally excluded HCUI statistics.

In an August 17, 2018 press briefing on #RealNumbersPH, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag explained that they stopped presenting HCUI figures because "it gets mangled with other numbers; it gets confused with other numbers, so we chose not to."

Banaag said, however, that HCUI figures can be requested from the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM). – Rappler.com