PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) may release the list of politicians involved in the illegal drug trade by next week.
“Siguro by next week ilalabas na ‘yan ni DILG Secretary (Eduardo) Año,” Panelo said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV as he noted the threat posed by illegal drugs to society.
“Alam mo, kailangan natin tingnan ‘yung problema ng droga,” he said. “Ito’y masyadong napakalaki na nagbabantang sirain ‘yung buong lipunan natin.”
Año had wanted to release the list before the May 13 elections supposedly to urge voters not to vote for “narco politicians” who are seeking posts. President Rodrigo Duterte, who made the war on drugs the centerpiece of his administration, supported this proposal.
Asked if President Duterte already gave the go signal to release the list, Panelo answered in the affirmative.
Human rights advocates, as well as some government officials, have expressed opposition to the DILG’s plan to release the list.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said he prefers that charges be filed first against the involved politicians.
“Hindi puwedeng maglabas ng listahan kung wala kang due process of law,” Gordon said in a separate interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
“Kung gusto mong habulin ‘yan, kasuhan mo,” he added.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, for her part, said releasing the list could violate election laws as it constitutes negative campaigning.
“Ang sinasabi ko, once they publish the list, it will create a negative (image). Iisipin ng tao totoo yan siyempre, so negative ‘yan na campaigning on the part ng mga opisyal sa DILG,” she said in another Dobol B sa News TV interview.
Guanzon pointed out that under the law, government officials can not campaign for or against a candidate.
She added that those on the list “are also entitled to their rights under the Fair Elections Act.”
She echoed Gordon’s view that the government should instead file cases against the involved candidates so that they could be disqualified by the Comelec.
Panelo assured the public that the DILG is already preparing the charges which will be filed against those on the list, although he admitted that resolution of such cases usually takes time.
“Kagabi sabi sa akin ni Secretary Año, naka-ready na ‘yung pafile-an niya, administrative at pati criminal. As I said earlier hindi na tayo maghihintay ng bago mo ilabas ‘yun eh kakasuhan mo pa eh matagal ang proseso ng kaso sa ating bayan,” Panelo said.
The Palace official reiterated that Filipino voters have the right to know the politicians who are involved in the illegal drug trade.
“Kung di natin ilalabas ‘yan at ‘yung karapatan ng tao na malaman nila... any matters of concern that affect their lives and welfare, mawawala ‘yung tungkulin na inaatang sa mga opisyales ng gobyerno na ipaalam sa taong-bayan ang anumang bagay na makakaapekto sa kanilang buhay,” he said.
Comelec Chairperson Sheriff Abas earlier said the poll body cannot stop the DILG as well as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency from releasing the list.
Abas however said that a candidate’s inclusion in the list was not a basis for disqualification from running for an elective position.