By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday finally made public the third batch of his narco-list, saying the “drug personalities” in the list were validated and charges have been filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“My decision to unmask these drug personalities was anchored on my trust in the government agencies that have vetted and validated the narco-list,” he said in his remarks during the meeting of the National Peace and Order Council in Davao City on Thursday evening, March 14.
Mr. Duterte released the list ahead of the 2019 midterm elections. “Remember that ‘public office is a public trust’; an official’s right to privacy is not absolute and there is a compelling reason to prioritize the interest of the state and the people,” he also said.
For its part, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in a statement that it filed “administrative charges” on Thursday against “46 incumbent government officials” included in the list “for their alleged involvement in illegal drug trade and activities.”
Mr. Duterte said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) were also conducting their respective investigations. He said the results of such investigations “will aid us in filing airtight cases against them.”
The President read out several names in the list, including dismissed Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog and Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente A. Loot whom he has repeatedly criticized and accused as “narco-politicians” on various occasions.
“I’m not really interested in releasing it before or after the elections because I do not have the slightest intention to hurt anybody or to be a cause of the failure of an election of a certain man who wants to serve the public,” he said.
The DILG said, “The initial list released to the public by the President includes 35 mayors, seven (7) vice-mayors, one (1) provincial board member, and three (3) members of the House of Representatives.”
Last week, at least seven media organizations expressed “grave concern about the likely breach of professional ethics and adverse legal implications of the publication and broadcast of the Duterte Administration’s list of public officials allegedly involved in the illegal-drugs trade.”
A March-7 statement posted on the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) website, which was signed by six other media groups such as National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Mindanews, Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), and Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network, said: “Instead of rushing to print or air, we now urge all our colleagues to exercise utter prudence and fastidious judgment in evaluating this ‘story.'”
“Verify, verify, verify. And do so independently. That is the first thing that the news media can and should do, before running a list that tags and links people to hateful crimes, on the mere say-so of the President and his political lieutenants,” the statement also said.