MANILA - Groups of journalists on Thursday urged media organizations to verify the government's list of supposed narco-politicians before publishing or airing it.
"Instead of rushing to print or air, we now urge all our colleagues to exercise utter prudence and fastidious judgment in evaluating this 'story'," media groups said in a statement.
The statement was signed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Philippine Press Institute, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Mindanews, Center For Community Journalism And Development, Freedom For Media, and Freedom For All Network.
"Verify, verify, verify. And do so independently. That is the first thing that the news media can and should do, before running a list that tags and links people to hateful crimes, on the mere say-so of the President and his political lieutenants," the groups' statement added.
The Department of Interior and Local Government earlier announced that it will release the narco-list ahead of March 30, which is the start of the campaign period for the local polls.
The groups said publishing the narco-list could put the "life and liberty of persons in serious peril" and the ethics and credibility of journalism in "serious doubt."
"Such naming and shaming calls attention to the possible invasion of privacy, as well as denial of due process and presumption of innocence, for those on the list," they said.
"Once published or broadcast, the travesty will be magnified as a collective disregard for the rule of law, and a clear breach of the time-honored traditions of fair, accurate, and independent journalism, by the news media," they added.
The groups noted that President Rodrigo Duterte made public in 2016 a list of local officials linked to the drug trade, and many of them had "long been dead, or wrongly named."
"Many others had been killed after the partial release of the list," they said.
The groups urged government to build cases, file charges, and prosecute those in the narco-list rather than seek publicity.
"It is from the courts -- by due process, by evidence, by fair trial – that the people must know who are guilty, and who are innocent," they said.
"We, journalists and media organizations can, at the very least, refuse to play along when the government and those who are supposed to lead the nation play fast and loose with due process and the rule of law."
Malacañang said the impending release of the list was not a government-backed smear campaign against politicians.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino earlier said it would be better to file charges against politicians allegedly involved with narcotics instead of publicly naming them, but he would follow Duterte's instructions on the matter.