By Martin Sadongdong
The right of the public to know who among the active politicians are allegedly involved in illegal drug activities far outweighs the latter’s right to privacy.
This was pointed out by Sr. Supt. Bernard Banac, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson, in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City Friday.
He said this was the primary reason why President Duterte revealed the identities of the 46 politicians who were included in his new “narco-list” ahead of the May midterm elections.
In a speech in Davao City Thursday night, Duterte disclosed the names of the politicians, who, he said, were linked to various illegal drug activities — from being drug protectors, peddlers and users.
Of the 46, 33 are mayors, eight are vice mayors, three are congressmen, one is a board member and another one is a former mayor.
“Mas nangibabaw sa kanya ang panawagan sa karapatan ng mamamayan na malaman ang information na ito. The right of the public to know and information weighs heavier sa karapatan ng local officials over their privacy. Tinimbang ito ng Pangulo (For the President, the right of the public to know this information is more important. It weighs heavier compared to the right to privacy of the local officials. Surely, the President weighed things down),” Banac told the reporters.
The PNP official’s statement came after some of the accused politicians cried foul over the release of the narco-list with others questioning its validity.
But Banac said the narcolist has undergone thorough validation and verification from several government agencies including the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), which is being chaired by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and in coordination with the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) among other members.
News reports also said that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) also launched independent investigations on the involved politicians.
While Duterte revealed the names of the 46 politicians in his narco-list, Banac said authorities were still conducting “further investigation and validation” since more officials are suspected of being involved in illegal drugs.
Accordingly, the narco-list contains the names of 82 personalities, but Duterte opted to read only the names of those who were charged before the court.
“Patuloy ang isinasagawang validation maging ng PDEA sa mga naiwan pa na pangalan. Sa part ng PNP, patuloy ang ating pangangalap ng information, validation and verification lalo na sa local officials na maaaktuhan na magbebenta, in possession or accomplice sa illegal drug operations (Continuous validation is being conducted even by the PDEA for the those who are not mentioned. As for the PNP, we are also continuing our information gathering, validation and verification especially on local officials who will be caught selling, possessing or acting as an accomplice in illegal drug operations),” Banac said.
No criminal raps?
The validation and verification will also help the PNP in gathering more evidence since criminal charges have yet to be filed against the suspected narco-politicians, Banac stressed.
“Ang naging basehan sa 46 ay information at mga testimonya na nagbibigay ng probable cause na sila ay sangkot or may kinalaman sa illegal na gawain o illegal droga (The basis of the inclusion of the 46 politicians are the information and testimonies gathered which gave probable cause that they are involved in illegal drug activities),” Banac said.
Earlier, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said only administrative charges for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross neglect of duty were filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Banac said that revealing the names of those included in the President’s narco-list wouldn’t mean that the authorities will already stop investigating the accused persons.
“Hindi nangangahulugan na titigil na tayo sa pangangalap ng information. Kapag mayroong matibay na ebidensya, hindi tayo magdadalawang-isip at agad natin silang sasampahan ng kasong kriminal (It does not mean that we will stop gathering information. If there’s enough evidence, we will not hesitate to file criminal charges against them),” Banac noted.
As for now, Banac said the accused officials will have to wait for a summons, which will be issued by the Ombudsman.
“Ang tanging magagawa nila ay hintayin ang summon ng Ombudsman para sa kanila. Wala nang maidadagdag pa ang PNP dahil ito ay nasa Ombudsman na. Naisampa na ang kaso at ang PNP, DILG at PDEA ay magko-concentrate na sa mga nalalabi pa na pangalan ng iba pang mga suspects (The only thing that they could do is wait for the summon from the Ombudsman. The PNP could no longer do anything because the case is already in the Ombudsman. Charges have been filed and the PNP, DILG and PDEA will now concentrate on investigating other names in the list),” he stated.