"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Numbers Are Significant

In mathematics and the sciences, numbers are important. Our responses to numerical questions are marked wrong in an exam if our answers are incorrect. 12 times 12 is not equal to 143, regardless of whether or not we have an excellent lawyer to defend us. Obviously, numbers transcend mathematics for these also provide meaning. Thus, in real life, numbers are indeed significant. Stating "We are now looking at some very grim statistics: since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions" is very different from "from July 1, 2016, to March 24, 2017, there were a total of 6,011 killings or “homicides” in the country. Of this number, 1,398 were confirmed to be drug-related while 828 were not drug related. The rest—3,785 cases—remained under investigation." The first statement is from the Vice President of the Philippines Leni Robredo while the second statement comes from Augusto Marquez Jr., head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.

Well, here are more numbers. In 2014, there have been 15465 reported killings (murder (9945) plus homicide (5520)). This period is way before the drug war of the Duterte Administration. The total killings therefore cited above by the police for a 9-month period, 6011, appear to be significantly lower from the years 2012-2014 under the Aquino administration.


Above copied from
The Philippines in Figures 2015, Philippine Statistics Authority
Of course, just one person being killed is indeed bad enough but this does not take away the importance of accuracy in reporting numbers. The fact that the Human Rights Watch reports on 24 incidents definitely warrants attention from the Duterte Administration:
This report examines 24 incidents, resulting in 32 deaths, involving Philippine National Police personnel between October 2016 and January 2017. Human Rights Watch found that the official police reports of these incidents invariably asserted self-defense to justify police killings, contrary to eyewitness accounts that portray the killings as cold-blooded murders of unarmed drug suspects in custody. To bolster their claims, the police routinely planted guns, spent ammunition, and drug packets next to the victims’ bodies. No one has been meaningfully investigated, let alone prosecuted, for these killings.
Still, whether the number killed is 7000 or 1398 matters very much. Reporting the number 7000 is fake news and only harms calls for investigating the above 24 incidents simply because half-truths are lies. Only one instance of innacuracy can ruin credibility.




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