MANILA – As the country’s premier office tasked with ensuring all government policies and programs rest on well-vetted data, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) should not simply rely on data churned out by other agencies, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said at the continuation of budget hearings Friday.
Drilon was interpellating Finance committee chair Loren Legarda on the nitty-gritty of the PSA budget when the matter arose. He criticized PSA for failing to help provide correct and reliable data on which to anchor such a primary thrust of the Duterte administration as campaign against illegal drugs.
There had beem confusion from conflicting statistics in the anti-drug campaign, with such confusion even causing the removal from his post of a top official of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
“The law provides that the data produced by the PSA shall be the official and controlling statistics of the government,” Drilon said at the agency’s budget hearing on Friday.
Under Republic Act No. 10625 or the Philippine Statistical Act of 2013, the PSA shall be primarily responsible for all national censuses and surveys, sectoral statistics, consolidation of selected administrative recording systems and compilation of the national accounts, according to Drilon.
Drilon asked PSA regarding the extent of its participation in getting the real data on the supposed gravity of the Philippine drug problem.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Legarda responded that the PSA merely relies on the data submitted by an inter-agency body composed by the Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice, among others.
To which Drilon replied: “To me, that is very discomforting if we are just relying on the data of the police who may have other motives or agenda in dishing out statistics.”
“I cannot understand why a major policy thrust of this administration, which is solving of the drug problem, is not supported by reliable data from the PSA,” Drilon said in dismay.
Last May, President Duterte sacked DDB chairman Benjamin Reyes for saying that there are only 1.8 million drug dependents in the country, way below the 4.7 million figure cited by the President and PDEA.
“If we are saying that we just rely on the police whose motive insofar as the data is concerned is suspect, then we really have a problem,” Drilon stressed.
Independent data integral to mandate
“What is PSA for if it will not have its own independent data? I cannot believe what I’m hearing. We have no independent data upon which our policies will be based,” Drilon added.
The minority leader said that having reliable and correct data is crucial in crafting the correct government policy.
“Reliable data should be the basis of policy. Kung mali-mali ang data, mali-mali ang polisiya na ating gagawin. We should shift to data-driven policy-making, especially in this war against drugs, instead of generating suspect data for the sole purpose of backing up policies already made,” Drilon said.
He said the PSA and NEDA’s expertise can be put to good use.
“The PSA and NEDA can shed light on this issue that has long been the subject of confusion and debate. I suggest that PSA and NEDA utilize their budget and capability in coming up with reliable data that could aid the government in crafting sound and better policies,” Drilon said.
He advised the PSA and its head agency, the National Economic Development Authority, to conduct their own survey concerning the extent of drug problems in the country.