By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA — The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) compared the situation in the Philippines to those in Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan in 2018, citing the Philippines as one of the four deadliest countries for civilians.

ACLED, which analyzes data on political violence and protest around the world, said the Philippines is a warzone in disguise.

“More civilians were killed in the Philippines in 2018 than in Iraq, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo — highlighting the lethality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ cum state terror campaign. Throughout the year, the Philippines saw similar levels of civilian fatalities stemming from direct civilian targeting as Afghanistan,” the report noted.

The report also cited that while there is a general downward trend in the number of political violence events or fatalities in 2018, conflict is expanding to more locations and to involve more actors.

“ACLED recorded approximately 1,000 more events of close-proximity attacks on civilians in 2018 than in 2017. Overall, civilians faced significant threats from conventional wars (Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen) but also from government repression (the Philippines) and militia targeting (Nigeria and India). Remote violence targeting civilians declined largely due to a significant drop in the Middle East, even as it increased in other regions and in specific countries, including Yemen and Mali,” the report said.

It also noted a decline in the number of organized events in the Philippines, which it said is due to a “more restrained take on the drug war.”

“The number of organized violence events also fell in Southeast Asia, due in part to a more restrained take on the Drug War in the Philippines. In Africa, the number of political violence events increased by about 10 percent, while in South Asia, the number of organized violence events increased by 14 percent from 2017 to 2018, and in five of the six countries in the region,” its report said.

In a report by The Philippine Star, as of November 2018, the government acknowledged the deaths of 5,050 “drug personalities” during anti-drug operations.

‘Remarkable in ignorance and bias’
In the same report by The Philippine Star, Presidential spokesperson and Chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo labelled ACLED’s findings as remarkable in ignorance and bias, noting the US NGO has based its “allegations on groups that are hopelessly and blindly critical of the Duterte administration.”

Photo: Salvador Panelo, Presidential spokesperson and Chief legal counsel. (Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Facebook Page)

“Describing the war on drugs as a state terror campaign targeting innocent civilians as a government policy is pure hogwash. So is putting the Philippines in its list of the most dangerous places for civilians in 2018,” Panelo said.

“The report stating that there is an alleged prevalence of state repression tagging the Philippines as a country where civilians are most at risk in 2018 is an infinitely fallacious finding,” Panelo added.

For its response, ACLED argued its data are “coded by a range of researchers who collect information primarily from secondary source of information and apply the guidelines outlined in the code book to extract information from news reports.”

Moreover, Panelo clarified that the war in drugs is “not state-sponsored and that impunity has no place under the current administration.”

Panelo also claimed the country’s press remains “one of the freest in the world.”

“Political and media detractors continue to hound the President with their reckless and baseless accusations as well as intrigues; yet they are not hailed to court,” Panelo said.

“To ACLED we say, as we have repeatedly conveyed to other foreign human rights organizations, we do not need lectures from inexpert foreign groups on how to run a nation,” Panelo added.