Tatad’s fake data: ‘14,000 EJKs’

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IT is ironic that my esteemed colleague Francisco Tatad ridiculed another colleague, Yen Makabenta for falling for fake news even as he disseminated his own fake data, in the very same column.

“The latest unofficial count has placed the extra-judicial killings at 14,000,” he wrote in his column the other day.

That is bogus data. There is no such “unofficial count” anywhere. It is another concocted figure starting to be spread by those vehemently against President Duterte, which grossly exaggerates the casualties in his war against illegal drugs. The aim is to paint him, in the words of one New York-based journalist who long abandoned her country, as a president “bathed in blood”.

The only “unofficial count” ever made on the number of suspected illegal drug pushers killed in police operations was that done by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, hardly a pro-Duterte newspaper, many months ago.

Called “The Kill List,” the series reported, based on police blotters and the dispatches of their reporters, each and every killing related to the anti-drug war, from July 1, 2016 to February 16, 2017, with all the details such as the names of those killed, dates, and the policemen involved.

2,107 killed
The Inquirer series reported 2,107 killed in the campaign against illegal drugs from July 1 toFebruary 16, which was smaller than the Philippine National Police’s official figure of 2,582.*

The PNP figure to August this year is 3,811 “drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations,” very far from Tatad’s 14,000 figure. Of course, the PNP may be under-reporting the killings.

But if Tatad disputes that figure, he has to provide us, as the Inquirer did, a list of each and every person killed in the course of the anti-drug war. Perhaps he can mobilize his Opus Dei or National Transformation Council comrades to do such detailed monitoring, so we’ll know how bloodthirsty Duterte is.

Tatad’s “14,000” is the same kind of garbage that was spread by the news website Rappler which claimed that from July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017, those killed in the course of Duterte’s war against illegal drugs totaled 7,080.

Source: Philippine National Police’s website. How could he quadruple that figure?

That figure has been so totally debunked that it is no longer mentioned by any publication, except Rappler of course which has refused to correct it.

Stung by Rappler’s fake 7,080-killed data, mainstream media has learned its lesson and has published no article or opinion piece (other than Tatad’s) mentioning that 14,000-EJKs figure.

I could find only one article referring to that number. This was in the Internet version of leftist Latin American cable TV Telesur. In a piece entitled, “Filipinos remember martial law under Marcos while resisting ‘US-Duterte fascism’,” quoted was a statement of the local communist Anakbayan: “On top of the 14,000 dead in Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ and the destruction of Marawi…”

Crackpot writer
There was another opinion piece, published on the same day as Tatad’s that had a roughly similar figure. This was in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, whose writer unwittingly disclosed, with the comparisons he used, where he has lived since the 1980s—in the US.

“The casualty meter of President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs is widely estimated to register over 13,000 deaths, more than twice the combined total of those who perished when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and terrorists crashed hijacked jetliners into New York’s World TradeCenter towers.”

Duterte is doubly worse than the Japanese militarists of the 1940s and al-Qaida chief, the late Osama bin Laden? This guy must be a crackpot.

I e-mailed the writer to ask where he got his 13,000 figure. He replied: “From my unimpeachable police source.” Right.

Even apparently good (and sane) journalists, once they lose their objectivity, fall prey to bogus data.

For instance, Sheila Coronel is a former executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and currently the director of Columbia University’s Stabile Center of Investigative Journalism. In her June 29, 2017 article in a journal melodramatically titled “A presidency bathed in blood” she wrote: “The drug war, which Duterte officially launched on his first day in office, has claimed the lives of as many as 9,000 suspected drug dealers and users.”

Numerous reports
I asked her where she got that 9,000 number. She replied: “Numerous news reports quote that figure.” She even gave me the link to her Google search results. I asked her why she “didn’t bother to verify if this is fake news, used mostly by Western media. “

I told her that even the search results she sent me had several reports specifically disproving that figure, yet she ignored those articles. She hasn’t bothered to correct the bogus data she spread in the US. So much for fairness and investigative journalism.

Bogus data like Tatad’s is much, much worse than fake news because it uses, but distorts, real data. It therefore fools people so much more. They are taken as true for so long, which is the case with the Rappler 7,087 figure.

By contrast, fake news is so easily demolished, once it is shown that its source is a phantom outfit that has life only in the Internet (such asAljazeera-tvnews.com that had Makabenta fooled) and not at all a legitimate news organization. Just make it a habit to search what kind of entity really is that which reports an item that jumps out of your Facebook timeline.

Rappler’s infamous 7,080 figure distorted data that reported total homicides being investigated by the Philippine National Police .

Quite ironically, Rappler distorted new data that the PNP started to collect only when the war vs drugs was launched, and made publicly available. This data was the number of total homicides the PNP was investigating, which it collected as one of its checks against summary executions by rogue cops in the war against illegal drugs.

Rappler’ s 7,080 figure was the sum of the 2,055 the PNP reported were “suspected drug personalities killed in police operations” and the 4,525 “deaths under investigation or investigation concluded.

How or where
So how or where did Tatad get his fake 14,000-EJKs figure?

One explanation is that it is based on Rappler’s 7,080 EJKs, which it claimed was for the period July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. This is for 7 months, which means a monthly average of 1,000 EJKs monthly. As I thought–which is the reason why I rigorously debunked that figure–those who have vowed to topple Duterte would use that monthly average to erroneously “extrapolate” the number of EJKs at the time they write.

Thus, Coronel’s 9,000 figure was copied from allegations in June (nine months from July) that EJKs totaled 9,000 (1,000 multiplied by 9). Tatad’s 14,000 figure is from July 2016 to August, or 14 months. Presto, 1,000 times 14 months…

However, it’s not Tatad’s cup of tea to do research and pretend to be a statistician so he could concoct fake data.

I suspect he just googled “EJKs Duterte”, and saw an article in the Internet version of theAmerican Public Radio International titled “The Catholic Church defies Philippine President Duterte.”

The very Catholic Tatad of course would see the “Catholic” in the title in large neon lights, and read in the article a 14, 000 figure: “In the little more than a year since Duterte swept into the presidency and unleashed a vicious war on drugs, there have been more than 14,000 murders and homicides, according to government statistics.”

Since in his religious mind Duterte is a murderous president, Tatad didn’t see 14,000 murders and homicides, but 14,000 extra-judicial killings.

*See my column *“How Rappler misled EU, Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, BBC — the world,” Manila Times, May 19, 2017.