By Arjay L. Balinbin Reporter
and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo on Tuesday admitted that foreign countries are providing the Philippine government with “wiretapped” information on politicians in the Philippine government’s “narco-list” and on other criminal activities they may be involved in.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said on Tuesday that 64 of 82 narco-politicians on the list are seeking reelection in this year’s midterm elections.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Panelo said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will release the narco-list next week.
The government, he also said, will be “filing administrative and criminal charges against those [individuals] in the list.”
Mr. Panelo was also asked if law enforcement agencies are wiretapping drug suspects. He replied that the Philippine government has no capability to wiretap suspected criminals.
“Kahit nga si Presidente sinabi niya, ‘Oo alam ko, kaya ko nalaman iyan dahil may nag-provide’ — not necessarily sila ha, not necessarily law enforcement agencies natin, kasi I don’t think we have the capability. Wala tayo ‘nun eh,” he said. (Even President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself said he knows of such activities because he was provided with information, not necessarily by our law enforcement agencies because I do not think we have the capability. We do not have that).
He added: “Ang mga nag-po-provide sa atin mga… sa ibang bansa eh. Ang magagaling diyan Israel, magaling diyan America, Russia, China.” (Those who are providing us with information are other countries that are good at it like Israel, America, Russia, and China).
“In other words, they provide us with the information. Kung tayo lang, eh wala, kopong-kopong pa yata iyong mga instrumento natin eh.” (Nothing will happen if we do it on our own, because maybe our instruments are outdated).
Sought for comment, lawyer and Ateneo School of Government senior research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said via e-mail: “The duty of government is to protect its citizens. After knowing that foreign governments have spied on Filipinos, the administration’s only acceptable response is a loud and forceful protest. Anything short of this is a betrayal of their constitutional obligation to protect all citizens of this country.”
“Furthermore, any information gathered from an illegal wiretap, whether by our government or a foreign entity, is inadmissible evidence. If such information is the basis of the purported narco-list, then the criminal cases to be filed against those on the list have very weak legs to stand on,” he explained.
With Mr. Panelo’s disclosure, Mr. Yusingco also said, “releasing the narco-list could open the administration to lawsuits.”
For his part, PDEA chief Director General Aaron N. Aquino told reporters that the 82 politicians on its list are in the local level.
“I think it’s 64 [of the 82]. They filed their CoCs [Certificates of Candidacy] and the remaining 18 decided not to file,” Mr. Aquino told reporters at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City on Tuesday.
He added, “Sabi ko 82 lang ‘yan (I said it’s only 82), but I personally know na (that) there are more, marami pa kaming politicians na nasa drug information system namin (there are many more politicians in our drug information system), but (the initial list) serves just as a watchlist, it still needs to be validated.”
Malacañang on Monday maintained that releasing the so-called narco-list will guide voters in the upcoming midterm elections, amid admonitions by the Commission on Elections that such a list is tantamount to negative campaigning.
Mr. Aquino, for his part, said, “I don’t want the list to be revealed or to be disclosed. Ayan ‘yung statement ko mula pa noong umpisa, hindi pa nagkakaroon ng filing of COC (That’s my statement since the very beginning, even before the filing of CoC started).”
“But again, if ordered by the President that the list be revealed then I should abide (by) it. I think hindi binigay sa PDEA ‘yung authority to disclose the list but it’s with the SILG [Secretary of Interior and Local Government] yata,” Mr. Aquino said. (I think’s it’s not given to PDEA’s authority to disclose the list but perhaps it’s with the SILG).