VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Shabu use not limited to poor -- DDB survey

A NATIONWIDE survey released recently by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has found that President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that methamphetamine or “shabu” use being confined to the poor has no statistical basis.

STATEMENT: Amid criticisms that only the poor are targeted by the government’s anti-drug war, Duterte told reporters on Aug. 24 during a press conference shortly after he paid visit to a police officer who was killed in a buy bust operation in Taytay, Rizal:

“Itong mga ano, wala akong nakitang nag-distribute diyan sa Forbes Park. Nagbabantay rin ako kasi ang mga tao diyan hindi shabu ang hinihirit niyan. ‘Yung mga mayaman, cocaine pati heroin…..Ang pinakamarami dito, unfortunately though, hindi ako nag-iinsulto ng Pilipino, ‘yung mga mahirap, because they are the easy target.”

(Source: Press Briefing, Taytay, Rizal, Aug. 24, 2016. Watch from 13:41-13:58 and 19:12 -19:22)

FACT: The DDB survey, conducted from Dec. 5, 2015 to Feb. 5, 2016 by research firm Resources, Environment and Economic Centre for Studies Inc. (REECS), found that: “No clear distinction is revealed in terms of... whether prevalence is inversely or directly proportional to income level.”

The nationwide survey was participated in by 5,000 respondents aged 10 to 69, who represent 75 percent of the projected Philippine population of 102.96 million Filipinos. It has a 95 percent level of confidence and ±0.9 margin of error. The DDB shared the findings with the media on Sept. 19.

Of the total number of respondents, 306, or 6.1 percent, were found to be “lifetime users” or have used drugs at least once in their lifetime. Of this number, 113, or 2.3 percent, were current users during the survey period.

Applying these prevalence rates to an estimated 77,683,800 Filipinos aged 10 to 69 in 2015 would yield 4.8 million lifetime users and 1.8 million current users.

The survey divided the 5,000 respondents into five quintiles based on wealth. The poorest made up Quintile 1 and the richest Quintile 5. (Quintile is also referred to as “Class.”)

In terms of wealth, the survey found the highest prevalence in Quintile 2 and the lowest in Quintile 3.

If Duterte were right, the highest prevalence should have been in Quintile 1.

Sought for comment, DDB Chairman Benjamin Reyes said Duterte might have based his statement on “practical observations,” since cocaine is much more expensive than shabu.

A sachet of shabu costs around P206, according to the survey. A much higher estimate of P1,200 to P15,000 per gram of shabu was reported by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in 2015.

A gram of marijuana dried leaves costs around P18 to P300, while the plant itself costs P150 to P400. One gram of cocaine costs around P3,600 to P7,000, the PDEA report said.

“But as far as the (DDB) study is concerned, shabu and marijuana is the preferred drug choice,” Reyes told VERA Files.

Marijuana is the most widely used substance, the survey showed. Below is a projected breakdown of drug users per substance:

  • Marijiuana = 1,270,048
  • Meth or shabu = 859,150
  • Cocaine = 56,032
  • Heroin = 18,677
  • Cough syrup = 18,677
  • Valium = 18,677

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