Lawmakers reject narco-list release

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate President Vicente Sotto III ( photos)

More lawmakers on Monday, March 4, expressed their disapproval on Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año’s plan to publish President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of narco-politicians.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that the DILG must just directly contact the politicians on the list and place them under investigation instead of disclosing their identities to the public since “the media will surely pick it up and it will then have a basis for their exposure.”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned the interior secretary on possible criminal and administrative suits. As for the senator, “the DILG should just file cases against these candidates.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian explained that the narco-list will do no good as much as an impeachment charge would. He proposed that such convictions must be done in courts.

“Shaming them can only do so much. They have the money and local relationships that will ensure their victory. The best strategy is to remove them [from their present positions] legally through the proper courts,” Gatchalian said as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Senatorial candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III maintained that “they are all presumed innocent until proven guilty.” He reiterated that the government must be “convinced, by evidence of their involvement in the narcotics trade.”

“If the government has included them in a list, then it is [the] government’s duty now to file charges against them using the evidence which made them land [on] the said list,” Pimentel said as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin labeled it a “virtual death warrant” for politicians opposed to the administration as he called it a “gross violation of human rights.”

“The list is a virtual death warrant for politicians and their families who will not only be publicly humiliated but [also become targets] for political killings by death squads,” Villarin said in a statement.

Palace to narco-politicians: Go to the courts

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that they will release the list anytime before next week as he emphasized that the list of the DILG and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will aid the voters this upcoming election.

“The idea of presenting a list by the DILG and PDEA is to tell the electorate the kind of candidates that they will choose from and I think it will help them,” Panelo said as reported by The Philippine Star.

“Now the fear that it may destroy the presumption of innocence, to my mind there is a judicial remedy for that: if you feel that you’ve been libeled, you can always go to the courts,” the spokesperson added.

The presidential legal counsel also said that this will give those people in the list the opportunity to redeem themselves and prove to the people that they really are innocent.

“Me, as a lawyer, I prefer that you release the name of my client so I can immediately respond to it, so I can clear his name if he is innocent and at the same time, sue you,” Panelo said.

“From the point of view of the voters, it will also be unfair if you do not tell them exactly your investigation relative to those involved in the drug industry. And if they are elected and then suddenly their place is contaminated with drugs, they will blame the government,” he added.

Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Spokesperson James Jimenez reminded the public that the said list would not guarantee a disqualification since it is not yet a final conviction. However, it is “negative campaigning” that might prevent them from acquiring a position. 

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