MANILA-- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday it will "seriously" discuss reports linking political candidates to narcotics money that may influence the outcome of the May 10 polls.

The poll body said the reports of candidates involved in narco-politics are quite alarming.

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"We will discuss that (issue) in the en banc because of its serious implications on our electoral politics," said Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

The Comelec has also urged the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to name the candidates who are allegedly receiving drug money from traffickers for their own campaign.

However, PDEA refused to name these politicians due to insufficient evidence to prove some candidates involved in narco-politics.

Earlier, the US State Department released its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which stated, among others, that the Philippines' drug problem continues to pose a significant national threat despite reports of a possible decline in the supply and demand of illegal drugs in parts of the country.

The report pointed out that with the upcoming 2010 elections, there is fear that illicit narcotics funds, which have evolved into a billion-dollar industry, supporting political candidates may affect election results in the Philippines.

Narco-politics regulation

The Comelec said meanwhile that the en banc will discuss its strategy to regulate narco-politics “although the law penalizing this kind of act is weak.”

Sarmiento has also asked the PDEA to reveal its sources who allegedly name candidates involved in the narco-politics, and not only the candidates’ names.

"We appreciate a briefing from PDEA on persons involved, who are being supported...For transparency, PDEA should name them," he said.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez also said that a big part of the narco-politics issue is concerned more on proving that a certain candidate is engaged in the act.

Jimenez assured that the commission will be working on the matter to ensure that this is resolved.

"Comelec will come towards the end of the process, maybe to a point where the candidate might be disqualified," explained the spokesperson.

Serious problem

National Security Adviser (NSA) and Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said, in an ambush interview, narco-politics allegations are very serious and should be verified.

The PDEA affirmed that narco-politics has also been present in the 2004 and 2007 elections and is now aiming for higher political seats.

Gonzales admitted that the NSA office and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency had received previous reports about some congressmen, councilors and other local government officials being involved or having links with drug syndicates or drug lords.

He said no arrest, however, have been made since such suspicions were difficult to prove.

“Narco-politics is a serious case. Our intelligent units will study that,” Gonzales said adding that it is part of the campaign of the Armed Forces on loose firearms and involvement of goons in politics.

Escalation of killing

Gonzales said that for him, the biggest threat to the elections is the escalation of killing citing that with the automation of the May 10 polls, some candidates may opt to use goons to coerce or harass both the voters and their rival in politics or simply kill their opponents to ensure victory.

He said that it is an “unfortunate” and “sad” reality that several killings are happening every day throughout the country. It is worse than the election-related violence and murders that occurred in the 2004 presidential elections, he said.

He, however, does not have the number of the alleged killing incidents to back up his claim.

Gonzales said the problem stems from the use of some politicians of their own private armies or hiring of goons.

He said they have already identified some of these armed groups, the people who hire them or those that are already negotiating with armed groups.

“Our Armed Forces will not tolerate them for using coercion in times of the elections,” Gonzales said adding that they continue to hope that the killings would not intensify as the election nears. (Kathrina Alvarez/JMR/PNA/Sunnex)