By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
AS THE campaign period for the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections comes closer, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said it is not yet time to disclose the names of barangay officials who are in his “narco-list” or drug-watch list.
“Not yet. It is not time. And I have to get back all of those who want to come back,” the President said in a press conference in Davao City on Sunday, April 29, upon his arrival from Singapore.
However, on April 25, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director-General Aaron N. Aquino said the agency was set to release its watchlist of barangay officials involved in illegal drugs.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. also confirmed in a radio interview last Friday that Mr. Duterte has already ordered the release of the narco-list.
“Huwag po nating ihalal iyong mga may koneksyon sa droga” (Let us not elect those candidates who are involved in illegal drugs),” Mr. Roque said in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas.
For its part, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it “sees the forthcoming Barangay elections as an opportunity for the people to remove officials with ties to illegal drugs.”
“This is the reason why we are urging the public to vote for candidates who are actively fighting the war against drugs in the Barangay level,” the agency said in a press release.
The baranggay and SK campaign period will run from May 4 to 12 and the elections will be held on May 14.
For his part, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano said: “The rule of law and due process must always prevail in these cases. If there is substantial evidence linking these officials to illegal drugs, then by all means, they should be held criminally liable. I emphasize ‘substantial evidence’ as a precursor because there were instances wherein the President released the narco-list, only to follow it up by retracting several names included in it. These blunders certainly cast doubt on the accuracy of the said drug list.”
The opposition lawmaker added: “I hope that the release of this document achieves something outside of public shaming.”
In a statement, Senate committee on local government chairman Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said, citing as well the Commission on Elections, that “over a million Filipinos filed their COCs (certificates of candidacy) for the barangay and the SK elections last April 20.”
“Of those who filed COCs, 684,785 candidates ran in the barangay elections, while 386,206 others ran for a position in the SK,” he added.
The senator said he challenges the candidates “to show the voters how they can truly fulfill their role in nation building as frontliners in the delivery of basic services.”