By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators on Tuesday weighed in on proposals to release President Duterte’s “narco” list ahead of the barangay elections on May 14.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a known ally of the Chief Executive, believes that the list containing the names of those suspected to be involved in the illegal drug trade should finally be disclosed so they could defend themselves and avoid extortion attempts.
“The list should be released so that those on the list will have the chance to ‘clear’ their names if they are interested in doing that,” Pimentel told reporters in a text message.
“It is actually fairer to all concerned that the list be once and for all known rather than kept a secret and then used by ‘enterprising’ people for some extortion activities,” he added.
Majority floor leader Sen. Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said he is okay whether or not to divulge the names of so-called narco-politicians, as long as the President decides.
“I can live with both ideas. Parehong pwede sa akin (Both are okay with me). I’ll follow the President’s stand. He is the one blessed with authority,” he said in a separate message.
But Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara reminded that should the list be released, it must stress that the allegations are not conclusive.
“If ever it is released it should state that the findings are preliminary and not conclusive especially if no cases have been filed yet. Even better if it states the source of the information, unless these are confidential or classified intelligence sources,” Angara said.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, in an earlier interview, said it is proper to release the names of barangay officials, especially with the looming elections.
“If they are really serious in finding the solution to the country’s drug problem — we don’t want our barangay officials to be narcopoliticians — subject for verification, (the names) should be disclosed to the residents. So that they can vote properly during the elections,” he said in a radio interview over the weekend.
Zubiri said Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should have filed cases against barangay officials in the drug list long ago.
“I feel that the DILG has been late because they have been saying that Malacañang holds several names in the drug list, including barangay officials. They should file cases against these officials so that people will know about their involvement in illegal drugs come elections,” he said in Filipino.
“Now they are late, how will residents know if the candidates should really be running. I hope that the list be released so it can guide the residents,” he added.
Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV likewise joined his colleagues in supporting the release of the drug list.
“Yes, it should be released so it will be the basis of the voters on whether or not to vote for a certain candidate,” he said in a separate radio interview.
President Duterte had said earlier that 40 percent of barangay leaders nationwide are involved in the illegal drug trade, as he had asked Congress to defer twice the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.