VERA FILES FACT CHECK: 20,000, not 200,000: Cayetano exaggerates illegal drug users numbers

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano bloated the number of illegal drug users cited in a 2001 Letter of Instruction (LOI) ten times, repeating President Rodrigo Duterte’s baseless claim on current number of drug addicts.


In a Nov. 10 interview with CNN Philippines, Cayetano was asked about the actual number of illegal drug users, which has become confusing because of the different figures cited by authorities, including the president.

He said:

“Take a look at letter of instructions No. 1 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. If I'm not mistaken, kung hindi (if not) 2001 hearing, [then] 2004. And she was saying that in 1972, [there were only] 200,000 users, but then there's been a 300 percent increase every year, and I did see a document na may (which says there are) 3 million users, but I did hear a statistic that 5 to 7 percent of Filipinos use drugs.”

Source: CNN Philippines, The Source: Alan Peter Cayetano, Nov. 10, 2019, watch from 10:00 to 10:38

Cayetano then clarified that the figure he cited translates to around 7 million Filipinos.


Signed by then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 4, 2001, LOI No. 1 shows that there were only 20,000 drug users in 1972 -- not 200,000 as Cayetano claimed.

Arroyo’s LOI established the National Anti-Drug Program of Action, which aimed to have a drug-free Philippines by 2010.

Cayetano repeated the president’s unsupported claim that there are 7 million drug users in the country. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: 3 years into drug war, Duterte again revises drug addict count)

Official data on the number of drug users in the country is still pegged at 1.8 million, according to the Dangerous Drugs Board’s 2015 survey, the agency’s latest available report.


CNN Philippines, The Source: Alan Peter Cayetano, Nov. 10, 2019

Official Gazette, Letter of Instruction No. 1, July 4, 2001

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Rodrigo Duterte, Speech during the thanksgiving dinner in Davao City, May 24, 2019

Dangerous Drugs Board, 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)


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