Palace: Narco list to be released next week
Saying it could not allow “destroyers of society” to run local governments, Malacañang on Tuesday announced that President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade would be released next week.
“And we’ll be filing administrative charges as well as criminal charges against those [on] the list,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.
Panelo said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año would release the list next week.
He said Año met with the President on Monday night.
Earlier, the President told reporters that he favored publishing the so-called narco list, but stressed that the decision should be made by Año.
Año, Panelo said, had assured the President that the contents of the list had been verified.
Panelo said he did not know the contents of the list.
He said he also did not know whether charges would be filed first against the politicians before the list would be released.
But he added: “You cannot let the people wait, because it takes time filing charges. By the time you filed charges, the candidates might have been elected.”
The narcolist reportedly contains the names of 82 incumbent officials, mostly of local governments, and 64 of them are running for reelection in May.
Lawmakers oppose publication of the narcolist, saying those named should be accorded due process and warning that officials who would disclose the identities of the politicians risked libel suits.
Even Director General Aaron Aquino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) opposes publication of the list before midterm elections in May.
“Lesson learned. I will not do it again. There [were] a lot of complications [when the barangay-level narcolist was released last year],” Aquino said in a talk with reporters on Tuesday.
Aquino explained that some of the 207 barangay officials who were on the list had cases handled by the PDEA, but those cases were so difficult to build up.
“Case buildup is very difficult. We still need to do financial investigation. That’s one reason why I hesitate to disclose the list,” he said.
Verification not finished
Aquino said he preferred to work quietly and file charges against the politicians on the list.
He added, however, that he would abide by a decision of the President to release the list.
Aquino indicated that the list was not fully verified, saying, “If they want it revealed next week, I just hope we can finish the revalidation of this list.”
He said it was up to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) whether to disqualify candidates whose names appeared on the list.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said on Monday that only final conviction in court could disqualify a candidate from running in May.
“Since [the narcolist] is not a final conviction, it cannot be disqualifying,” Jimenez said.
Panelo said the government appreciated advice from well-meaning people that premature release of the list would violate the politicians’ right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
But he added that “the Constitution gives the people the right to know matters of public concern, especially those that concern their lives and welfare.”
Panelo noted that the President had raised the drug problem to the level of national security.
“In other words, we are on the precipice of destruction if we cannot stop this drug industry,” Panelo said. “We cannot allow people to run local governments—the barangays—[we cannot allow these to be run] by destroyers of society.”
Panelo reiterated that voters had the right to know the candidates in May’s elections.
“While there is an individual right, this individual right must yield to the people’s right to public safety. It must yield to the people’s interest or the country’s interest,” he said.
Panelo said that even if the politicians on the list filed libel suits against the government, it would be difficult for them to prove malice on the part of the administration, which he stressed had no malicious intent in releasing the list.
But detained Sen. Leila de Lima asked why the Duterte administration could not just bring charges against the narcopoliticians.
“What a farce,” De Lima said in a handwritten statement from her cell at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
“Why can’t they file cases against real narcopoliticians? All they do is come up with lists and just engage in ‘naming and shaming’ while they are quick to file cases against innocent people like me,” De Lima said.
Go to court
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said candidates in May’s elections who were on the President’s narcolist may seek temporary restraining orders (TROs) from the courts to stop the publication of the list.
“Any candidate can go to court and seek a TRO or an injunction against the release of the alleged narcolist, as it is an abuse of authority, lacks due process and will adversely affect the election results for those who are named [on] it,” Drilon said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian warned that candidates listed as narcopoliticians may use the issue to prop up their candidacies.
“What the candidates might do is to claim that the [accusations against them are] just part of politics, that they are just being vilified,” Gatchalian said.
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