Voters ‘entitled to know’ drug-tainted poll bets
President Duterte authorized the release of the names of barangay officials suspected of drug dealing because voters are entitled to know the candidates for elective offices, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended the President’s order as the Philippine National Police said cases would be filed against those classified as high-value targets (HVTs).
“The order was given and that’s within the powers of the executive to warn the public on the possible drug [dealers] who may be elected to public office,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Presumption of innocence
He brushed off protests, particularly from the Commission on Human Rights, that the release of the names could violate the individuals’ right to due process and presumption of innocence.
“That’s a judgment call of the President. They could object and object but the voters are entitled to this information,” he said.
President Duterte had earlier said that about 40 percent of barangay captains were involved in drug dealing.
“Normally, when there is a list like this, the names [on] the list should already have [been interviewed by the police],” said Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, the PNP spokesperson.
He was referring to the PNP’s “Oplan Tokhang” (knock-and-plead) procedures.
“If they are already categorized as HVT, the case buildup should already have been completed,” Bulalacao said. “Since the PDEA will be releasing this list, there will be filing of cases.”
He said the PNP was coordinating with the PDEA and that the “narcolist” was thoroughly “validated, revalidated and again revalidated by an interagency task force.”
The interagency task force on illegal drugs is composed of the PDEA, PNP, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
The PNP spokesperson admitted that problems arose in the past because antinarcotic operations targeted anyone who was reported to be into illegal drugs.
“So there were times that there were lapses on the part of the PNP, causing its involvement in the drug war to be suspended,” Bulalacao said.
“This time with the recent guidance issued by the headquarters, we became more careful and more thorough in evaluating information,” he said.
“You [will] notice that there are hardly complaints against the PNP in so far as operations against illegal drugs are concerned,” he added.
The PDEA and the Department of the Interior and Local Government have stepped up their campaign against the election of barangay officials involved drug trafficking.