The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) revealed on Tuesday, March 5, that 64 out of 82 politicians in the yet-to-be-released “narcolist” are vying for reelection this upcoming midterm polls.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino stated that the said politicians were all aiming for a local seat this election. He confirmed the number with the list of those who filed their certificates of candidacy.
“I think it’s 64. They filed their COCs and the remaining 18 decided not to file,” the PDEA chief said as reported by The Philippine Star.
In a radio interview with DZMM, the PDEA director general admitted that he has no idea how the administration got a hold of the narcolist but he has assured the public that he ordered the verification of the intelligence reports.
“Hindi ko alam kung anong klaseng proseso ang ginawa nila, kung mayroon pang intelligence effort ng ibang bansa dito na nakialam, kung mayroon bang wiretapping o kung anong pamamaraan ng pagkuha ng report. Wala po akong alam doon (I don’t know what kind of process they did if there was intelligence effort by another country that meddled here if there was wiretapping or what method they used in getting the report. I don’t know anything about that),” Aquino said as reported by ABS-CBN News.
The PDEA chief was also vocal in his stand not to publicize the list. However, he maintained that, “if it will be ordered by the president, I should abide by that.” He added, “It’s really hard to build cases against these politicians. It’s easy to say why not make a case buildup.”
“It’s not true that PDEA will release the narcolist. First and foremost, we still remain on my stand from the start [that] I don’t want the list to be revealed or to be disclosed even before the filing of COCs,” Aquino said as reported by The Manila Times.
The drug agency initially enlisted 83 narco-politicians. However, they crossed off Mayor Norodin Salasal of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao after he was arrested on February 24. They also said that they are yet to finish the validation of the said list.
Law enforcement officials were also mandated to identify those candidates that are involved in the illegal drug trade. National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major Gen. Guillermo Eleazar ordered the force to prove who among the candidates were narco-politicians.
“So far, we have no reports as of now that a politician in Metro Manila is involved in the illegal drugs trade. But we wanted to be sure as the government is set to reveal a list of politicians involved in illegal drugs and we do not want to be caught with our pants down,” Eleazar said.
“We should have strong evidence against politicians involved in the illegal drug trade so our cases could stand in court. We should not base our reports on hearsay,” he added.
Precipice of destruction
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that it is important for the public to be aware of the reputation of their to-be-leaders. Since illegal drug trade is considered a threat to national security, he explained that narco-leaders should be revealed before they assume positions.
“We have placed the drug problem as national security. In other words, we are on the precipice of destruction if we cannot stop this drug industry. We cannot allow people to run local governments — the barangay (villages) — by the destroyers of society,” Panelo explained.
The spokesman said that releasing the list would give them the chance to prove to the public whether or not they are involved in illegal activities. He also noted that publicizing names of narco-politicians doesn’t violate any constitutional rights.
“You give people a chance to defend themselves, which is why there is a constitutional presumption of innocence. But how can you demand that you are presumed innocent when you are involved in something criminal?” he said.
“The due process clause applies to life, liberty or property. The release of the list does not even enter any of these [categories,] because you do not deprive them of these three things when you release the list,” he added.