MANILA - The impending release of the list of supposed narco-politicians is not a government-backed smear campaign ahead of the local election season, a spokesman said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo argued that officials from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are “risking their liberties” with the release of the narco-list because they know they can be slapped with libel charges, thus it is important for them to have the list validated.
"The officials are risking also their liberties kasi kapag napatunayan na siniraan lang nila eh makukulong din naman sila,” said Panelo when asked whether releasing the narco-list without charging the officials in court was tantamount tp “paninira” (besmirching).
(Not really. These officials are risking their liberties because if it is proven that the ones they are accusing are innocent, then they could go to jail.)
“Bilib nga ako sa kanila given the presumption of innocence, given that pwede kang makulong, ilalabas pa rin nila. Ibig sabihin they are steadfast in their conviction na ang mga taong ito involved.”
(I am impressed with them because they are bent on releasing the list even if they know there’s the presumption of innocence and that they could go to jail. That means they are steadfast in their conviction that these people are involved in the illegal drug trade.)
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año over the weekend said his office will release the narco-list ahead of the March 30 start of the campaign period for the local polls.
Panelo said the release of the narco-list is in line with the government’s duty to protect the people and make them know who among the candidates in the May polls are supposedly involved in the drug trade.
“The idea of presenting a list by the DILG and PDEA is to tell the electorate on the kind of candidates they would choose from and I think it will help them,” Panelo said.
“[On] the fear that it may destroy the presumption of innocence, to my mind there’s a judicial remedy for that. If you feel you’ve been libeled, you can always go to the courts.”
The Commission on Human Rights on Sunday cautioned authorities against the release of another list of politicians allegedly involved in narcotics.
CHR spokesman, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that while the release of the list seeks to ensure that only deserving and law-abiding candidates get elected, the administration must not forget that "presumption of innocence is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right.
"If there is enough evidence for the government to put names in a supposed narco-list, then the just way to proceed is to file appropriate charges against these personalities to make them accountable before our laws," she added.
"The last thing that we want to happen is to heighten violence because of the release of such a list in an, oftentimes, already violent period triggered by the election season," she said.