FORMER mayor Michael Rama has been included in the second list, a lengthy one, of personalities that President Rodrigo Duterte linked to the illegal drugs trade. Shocked, Rama described this as the biggest challenge he has to face in his 24 years as public official. But he is not alone. The others in the list who may be innocent are facing their biggest challenge, too, which is to clear their names.

Consider Supt. Romeo Santander, who only recently was appointed deputy director for operations of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO). Since he did well as chief of the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) of CCPO years ago, his career had been on the up and up. Now he is in limbo, placed on floating status by Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Chief Noli Taliño.

As the President himself said, there is no due process in what comes out of his mouth as due process is only for the courts. So now Rama, Santander and the others have taken up the burden to prove their innocence instead of placing that burden on the accuser. And they seem to have no redress if they succeed in proving their innocence. The stigma of being shamed will stick.

The problem when it is the President that bares lists like this is that his audience is national and even international. People outside Cebu who do not personally know, say, Rama and Santander, will probably swallow the accusation, to use a cliche, hook, line and sinker. But there is one saving grace for the innocent among the accused; in places where they circulate the accusation may not be believed.

And there is another. This shame campaign could eventually fall under the weight of unmet expectations. How many weeks have passed since three supposedly top drug personalities that included a certain “Peter Lim,” and  five police generals, two of them already retired, been “shamed”? Has evidence of their supposed guilt ever been dredged? Have cases been filed against them.

In one of Aesop’s popular fables, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a shepherd boy watching a flock of sheep drove away his boredom by shouting, “Wolf!” prompting the villagers nearby to run to where he was to help him, only to find that there was no wolf. He repeated the act a couple of times more. When a wolf finally surfaced, the villagers no longer believed his shout.

If government continues to fail to prove the guilt of those named, time will come when the shame campaign will lose its sting. It would no longer be believed.