President Rodrigo Duterte was surprised to see the Philippines included among the top 50 safest countries in the world for 2020 according to a report by a Washington-based firm.

According to the Gallup Global Law and Order 2020 survey, the Philippines was 12th among 144 countries in terms of national safety.

The country had an 84-percent score, tied with Australia, New Zealand, Poland and Serbia.

“I read that in the briefer and it was — I was really surprised. We are on the top 50 and we are lumped with countries that are really ideally peaceful,” Duterte said in a televised address on Thursday.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the results of the index showed the success of the government’s fight against criminality and drugs.

The questions in the Gallup survey were as follows:

  • In the city where you live, do you have confidence in the police force?
  • Do you feel safe walking alone at night?
  • Within the last 12 months, have you had money or property stolen from you or another household member?
  • Within the past 12 months, have you been assaulted or mugged?

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office, in a report in June, recommended international investigations into serious human rights violations in the Philippines, saying the government had emboldened perpetrators, who have escaped accountability.

It said the Duterte government’s drug war and national security approach had led to killings, arbitrary detentions and a crackdown on dissent.

The report said at least 8,663 people have been killed since the drug war began in 2016, although estimates by non-government groups were three times higher. At least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in relation to their work between 2015 and 2019, it added.

Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s monitoring platform #RealNumbersPH, however, had shown that 258 persons were killed from December 2019 to July 2020.

The UN office said there has been “near impunity for these killings, with only one conviction for the killing of a drug suspect in a police operation since mid-2016.”

Duterte said police and the military were to be credited for the peace numbers.

“If it’s a recent Gallup survey, it only shows that, well, we have to credit the police and the military and the other uniformed services of government who have toiled to make this country at least very peaceful,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro