By Ellson Quismorio
Two ranking members of the House of Representatives don’t mind giving more time to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to validate their new “narco-list,” which could have the names of six of their colleagues.
Moreover, Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and AKO-Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe underscored the importance of filing actual charges against these drug offenders, if only to show that the government means business.
“Tama lang na bigyan ng mahaba-habang oras itong ating PDEA sa pagba-validate nitong nasa listahan na ito kasi hindi naman talaga ganun kadali mag-validate ng ganitong klase ng information (It’s only right that we give a lot of time to our PDEA to validate the names on this list, validating this kind of information isn’t easy),” Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said in a radio interview today.
Barbers made the statement after PDEA requested for more time to verify details of its narco-list before making it public. Aside from the six congressmen, the list also reportedly holds the names of 67 mayors.
“Yes, better validate and file cases against them rather than baring just a list. Conduct sting operations and arrest them now, if need be, rather than branding them as ‘narco-politicians,'” said Batocabe, who is the leader of the 46-strong partylist coalition in the House.
The Lower Chamber currently has 292 members.
The Dangerous Drugs panel chair noted that a lot is riding on the validation efforts of PDEA as it could make or break potential cases against the erring public officials.
“Baka mapahamak o mapasubo itong ating PDEA sa pagkalap ng mahihinang ebidensya. Hindi na natin mapa-file ang kaso at madadala sa kulungan itong mga drug lord, narco-politicians na ito kung mahina ‘yung makakalap nilang ebidensya (Our PDEA might be forced to make do with weak evidence. We won’t be able to file charges and imprison these drug lords and narco-politicians if the evidence that we have is weak),” Barbers pointed out.
Asked how much time he would be willing to give PDEA to complete its validation, Barbers answered, “a few months.”
“Mas nararapat siguro na i-file ang kaso and after the filing of the case ay ilabas po ito sa publiko nang sa gayon ay makita ng taumbayan na seryoso ang ating pamahalaan, ang ating Presidente doon sa pagtugis ng mga narco-politician dahil nagkalat po ito sa ating kapuluan (I think it’s better to file the cases and then bare the list to the public after so that the people will know how serious the government and our President is in going after the narco-politicians in different parts of our country),” the Mindanao solon added.
Batocabe echoed Barbers’ sentiments.
“I urge PDEA to validate, conduct sting operations, prosecute and lock them up for good. The list will just be a mere list if these narco-politicians will continue to be scot-free and still win elections,” the Bicolano said.
The two House leaders are staunch supporters of Duterte administration’s no-nonsense anti-illegal drug drive.