Poor communities and individuals were the most vulnerable population in the first year of the Duterte administration's war on drugs.
This was one of the major insights of an inter-university study on the anti-drug campaign presented during the "Emerging Evidence and Data" forum on Monday at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).
Based on the findings sourced from news reports, affidavits and court filings related to the government's campaign against illegal drugs, about 16 percent of individuals killed from May 10, 2016 to September 29, 2017 whose occupations were identified had low-income or informal jobs.
It was estimated that 98 of individuals killed were tricycle drivers, 32 were construction workers or carpenters, 24 were vendors, 19 were jeep barkers or dispatchers.
Another 16 were farmers, 12 were jeep drivers, 15 were habal-habal or pedicab drivers, and seven were garbage collectors.
Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government (ASG), said there are killings which are not yet captured in this dataset as the study relies on publicly-available news reports.
Lawyer and ASG non-resident research fellow Michael Henry Yusingco said anecdotal data also suggested the vulnerability of poor Filipinos during the same period in Quezon City.
"Relatively poor barangays, or those with land values below the median in Quezon City, account for over 75 percent or three-fourths of drug-related killings in Quezon City," he said.
"Anecdotal evidence suggest that many of the killings linked to the campaign appear to be from poor and low-income households, from poor and low-income communities," Yusingco later added.
Associate Professor Jayeel Cornelio said the urban poor arose as "the face of the war on drugs" from patterns in the data and validation meetings with families left behind by those killed in drug-related incidents.
"The face of anti-drug campaigns is that of the urban poor. And generally, a teenager or a father, and the left-behind families, the face that we see are those of the mothers," said Cornelio, Director of ADMU's Development Studies Program.
Religious and class problems
Cornelio added that there was a theological underpinning behind the public support for the war on drugs, as he had observed in interviews with authorities of different Christian churches and denominations.
"The general pattern is this, we might think life is important, but the more important, salient point that we've been picking up in the interviews... is this: God has destined this president to become our president, to clean up our society. To put it bluntly, judgement on our society," he explained.
"There is a religious underpinning behind the statistics. In sociology, we call it everyday theology. People's beliefs matter: they are consequential," Cornelio said.
University of the Philippines - Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan noted that public opinion surveys between August and September 2017 showed President Rodrigo Duterte "losing support from the poor, (and) gaining support with Class A and B."
"These are the parents of students who go to UP, Ateneo, La Salle. We should be asking ourselves, what is happening here. But we know also our students went up into the streets, there's an outcry in the media, and within a few weeks, it (deaths) began to back down," he said.
While the policies involved in anti-illegal drug operations need to be addressed, Cornelio said the "bigger issue is sociological" and involves the "moral militant crusade" taking place in the country.
"We may be aware of it, we may smell it, we may sense it, we may even be bothered by it, but we don't know how to confront it," he said.
First phase of study
Monday's forum tackled the initial results of a multi-phase research effort by the ASG, De La Salle University, UPD, and Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism of Columbia Journalism School.
The study was undertaken to provide "a victim-level database of drug-related killings committed during the administration's anti-drug campaign" for policy-making bodies and the government.
"The truth is larger, and the academic community will continue providing evidence-based policy support to the government and policy-making groups," Mendoza remarked.
Dataset in the initial report contained information on 5,021 killings from May 10, 2016 to September 29, 2017, including who are being killed, where they are slain, and how they died.
All of the information in the report were gathered from publicly-available news, affidavits, and court filings on "drug-related" news reports or reports where sources allege a connection with the sale or use of illegal drugs.
It also accounts for killings linked to the drug campaign but are not linked to drugs, or victims of mistaken identity and collateral damage, among others. — RSJ, GMA News