MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said the public should not vote for politicians who are involved in the narcotics trade in the upcoming barangay elections in May.
Roque made this statement as he defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) to release the list of barangay officials with links to the illegal drug trade.
“Inorder na po ng Presidente ang paglabas ng listahan—ano naman ‘no, nang makonsidera ng mga botante pagpunta nila sa kaniya-kaniyang mga presinto ‘no itong darating na Mayo. Huwag po nating ihalal iyong mga may koneksyon sa droga,” Roque said in an interview on state-run Radyo Pilipinas.
The PDEA earlier said it plans to release the names of alleged “narco-politicians” at the barangay level ahead of the village polls this May.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said over 200 barangay officials were included in the President’s so-called “narco-list.”
The plan immediately drew criticism from opposition politicians and human rights groups.
The Commission on Human Rights said the release of the names will be a violation of barangay officials’ right to due process and right to be presumed innocent.
“Rule of law dictates that filing a case in the court is the proper way to apprehend and exact accountability from erring public officials,” the CHR said in a statement.
“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.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch, which closely monitors developments in the President’s drug war, meanwhile said the lives of barangay officials might be put in danger if the PDEA pushes through with its plan.
Human Rights Watch Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said the government should instead file charges against these officials if it has evidence that they have links to illegal drugs.
He described the narco list as a "virtual hit list...that violates due process and is an affront to the rule of law."
"Far too many cases of those people who end up on lists of suspected drug personalities have ended up as victims of summary executions, as we’ve seen in Duterte’s 'drug war' in the past 21 months," Conde said in a statement.
"Releasing the hit list of these barangay officials ahead of the election next month – without solid proof or evidence, as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency itself admitted -- is almost certain to worsen the bloodshed.”
Roque, however, said in a Thursday press briefing that releasing the names of those in the narco-list is a “judgment call of the President.”
“That’s within the powers of the executive to warn the public on the possible drug personalities who may be elected into public office. So that’s a judgment call of the President. They could object and object but the voters are entitled to this information,” Roque said.
He also said in Friday’s radio interview that the release of the names in the narco-list will only serve as confirmation to rumors circulating in various barangays about the alleged ties of local officials to the narcotics trade.
“Alam mo, barangay election ito. Alam naman ng mga barangay kung sino talaga ang nasa droga. Kung ang pangalan mo ay nariyan, kumpirmasyon na lang iyan. So hayaan natin iyong mga nasa barangay dahil kilala talaga nila iyong mga kapitbahay nila magsabi kung tama o mali iyong listahan na iyan,” he said.