Monday, December 17, 2018

Names of incumbent Oro barangay officials ‘included’ in narco-list

LANAO DEL NORTE. Military and police personnel confiscates a .45 caliber handgun from a motorist at a Commission on Elections (Comelec) checkpoint in Barangay Poblacion, Sapad town, Lanao del Norte on Thursday morning, April 26, 2018. (Richel V. Umel)

NOTHING will stop the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) from disclosing the names of village officials in Cagayan de Oro City allegedly included in the government's drug watchlist, Malacañang said Thursday, April 26.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said President Rodrigo Duterte made a judgment call when he ordered the release of the list.

"The President has already ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to disclose the names of barangay officials included in its list of all those allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade," the Palace official said.

"I confirm that the order was given. That's a judgment call of the President," he added.

The PDEA is finalizing the list and targets to release it on Monday, April 30, upon approval by the President.

Ahead of the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections, the PDEA announced that some 211 incumbent village officials have been linked to the rampant narcotics trade.

The impending release of names of the so-called "narco" village officials comes amid the President's worry that drug money may be used to finance candidates in the coming twin elections.

Such move was opposed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which said that making public accusations without due process "subjects those concerned to undue shame, violates their right to fair trial, erodes their dignity, and results to suffering of their families."

While the CHR said it understood the PDEA's plan, it stressed that the presumption of innocence and right to due process must not be compromised as there were Constitutional guarantees to protect human rights at all times.

"If the intention is to cleanse the local government from those involved in drugs, the legal process is the best way to ensure that those proven to be erring local executives can no longer serve or return to public office," the CHR said in a statement on April 20.

Roque, however, emphasized that Duterte's directive was meant to sternly warn the public against those who seek to hold posts in villages, but are connected with drug syndicates.

"They could object and object but the voters are entitled to this information," he said. "Again that's within the powers of the executive to warn the public on the possible drug personalities who maybe elected into the public office."

Duterte has repeatedly claimed that about 40 percent of villages are contaminated with illegal drugs, which prompted him to postpone twice the conduct of village and youth council elections.

As the twin polls draw near, the President warned in March that he would not hesitate to kill those who will be elected as village officials, if they are involved in drug proliferation.

PDEA-Northern Mindanao agent Ben Calibre, meanwhile, said the regional office has not yet received orders to divulge the names of incumbent village officials in the narco-list.

"I doubt kung tanan ba ma-mention. Kami sa region maghulat mi sa order kay basin sa national rana (I doubt if all village officials linked to drugs will be mentioned. We in the region will just wait for the order),"Calibre said.

Calibre, however, confirmed that PDEA-10 is keeping records of village officials linked to illegal drug activities across the region.

"Naa mi record pero wala mi kabalo kung unsa nang nakabutang sa 200 kapin kay wala mi copy ana (We have our records but I don't know who are those 200 plus that will be released today because we don't have the copy of that list),"Calibre said. (With SunStar Philippines)


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