Monday, December 17, 2018

Editorial: Releasing that narco list

Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to release a list, said to be sourced from “all intelligence units,” of barangay officials linked to the illegal drug trade. It’s a tricky move considering its legal implications and the potential damage it would bring on the reputation of those in the list, many of whom may be running in the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

But there’s nothing unprecedented in this move. The president was the first to bare lists of personalities supposedly involved in the illegal drugs trade, including higher-level politicians, businessmen and even high-ranking police officials. Some of those in the list have been charged while others haven’t--for obvious lack of proof. But they have been punished, nevertheless, their names tainted by their being in the list.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said the list will be released today, which shows how much presidential backing has energized the agency. For a while, PDEA hesitated to release the list despite the supposed altruistic purpose of guiding voters in choosing the people who should lead them in their barangays. Then came the president’s order.

The list contains 211 names, a rather small number considering previous claims. It’s but a small fraction of the thousands of incumbent barangay officials and smaller still considering the thousands more who are running for barangay posts in the May 14 polls. This is probably because PDEA made sure the list is believable.

“These 211 are validated, (it is) confirmed they are involved in illegal drugs,” Aquino assured.

But that is precisely the problem in this narco list-releasing scheme. The people are made to rely on the say-so of a government official or a government agency that does not possess superhuman powers of the gods of Olympus. Those who divulge the names are mere mortals who could err for various reasons. Meaning that Aquino’s assurance may not be assurance enough.

Which brings us to the question of how many in the list are in Cebu or in Central Visayas. Having barangay officials in Cebu included in the PDEA list would test the integrity of that list. Because no charges have been filed against them, their candidacies won’t be nullified if they run in the May 14 polls.

If they win despite the shaming, that’s a slap on PDEA and this narco list-releasing scheme.


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