Voters  will decide on narco-list officials

Published March 25, 2019, 12:47 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Feb 03, 2019President  Duterte  announced last Thursday, March 14, a list of 46  officials  allegedly involved in the local drugs  trade.  They were 33 mayors, eight vice mayors, three congressmen,  a provincial  board member, and a former mayor.

Eleven days after the names were announced, how has it affected   those  in  the list, especially the ones running  for office in the coming mid-term  elections?

Most  of  the politicians in the list have denied their involvement  in the drug trade, some of them claiming their inclusion in the list was  politically motivated.  The  Philippine  Drug  Enforcement  Agency (PDEA), however, vouched  for the list’s accuracy. A spokesman said the  PDEA  and  the other members of  an Interagency Committee on Anti-iIlegal Drugs (ICAD) spent 14 months investigating, evaluating, and validating the charges against the  46 in the list.

The  PDEA  expressed apprehension that those in the list may leave the country  to escape prosecution. There is nothing  to  prevent  them from leaving,  according to Secretary  Menardo  Guevarra  of the Department  of Justice (DOJ) since  no criminal case has been filed in court. “We can’t apply for a preventive hold-departure  order  since there are no complaints filed,” the secretary  said.

One of  the mayors  in the list left for Singapore with his family  last Tuesday, according to the Bureau of Immigration, while a vice mayor on the list  said  his name has been now been excluded.

What  the  Department of Interior and Local Government  (DILG) has filed are administrative charges with the Office of the Ombudsman which  could, after due investigation, issue  a  ruling of suspension or dismissal.   The DOJ said it is waiting for copies of the complaints and intelligence reports, after which its National Bureau of Investigation will conduct investigations,  which  could lead to the filing of court cases.

Legally, therefore,  there is yet no case against  the  officials in the narco-list  that could bar their candidacies. There  is  nothing to keep them from proceeding with their campaigns in the May 13  midterm  elections.  This campaign period for  local  officials  begins  March 29, only four days from today.

 Very probably, the President chose to disclose the narco-list in a bid to reach out to voters in the coming  election. Last  Wednesday, the Social Weather Stations announced the results of a survey on what voters look for in their candidates. The  top  quality  they want,  according to the survey, is “not corrupt.” This was the answer of 25 percent  of  the respondents.  The  next  two qualities they cited were “concern  for those in need,” 20 percent, and “fulfills promises,” 14 percent.

The  President and other officials hope that even  if  there is yet no legal case that can stop  the politicians in the narco-list, the voters will respond to his call for them to reject  those  involved in the illegal drugs trade,  even if only on the basis  of  the findings of the PDEA and  other government agencies that  drew up the narco-list after 14 months of investigation.  We will find out after the election how well-founded  those  hopes are.