Duterte tags politicians in 'somewhat validated' narco list

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President Rodrigo Duterte (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday named dozens of politicians in the narco list he read aloud during a National Peace and Order Council meeting in Davao City that was aired over the government television network.

Duterte named some local officials including Daanbantayan Vice Mayor Vicente Loot and and Iloilo Mayor Jed Mabilog whom he previously tagged as involved in the drug trade. Both have denied the President's allegations.

In the beginning of his disclosure, the President said it was a validated list. But after disclosing the names, he said the list is "medyo (somehow)" validated. Duterte also said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed administrative cases against the local officials on Thursday at the Office of the Ombudsman.

"'Yung iba, 'yung na-file na, medyo validated na [Those filed and somewhat validated], then we can say that we have gathered enough proof," Duterte said.

A list sent by the DILG contained 46 names of politicians ranking from vice mayor to congressman, but Duterte said the list he mentioned is just a representative list.

"'Yung iba [the others] I just want to be doubly sure," Duterte said.

Duterte said that in naming officials in the list, government only neded to find probable cause.

"Ang [for the] judge, it's proof beyond reasonable doubt. Ang pulis [For the police], ang Armed Forces, you only have to come up with probable cause. Is he probably the criminal of this act? Is he probably the criminal of this act? If he is, then I must arrest him. Remember the word probable does not require you to be very sure," he said.

The President clarified he does not want to hurt anyone by releasing the narco list.

"I'm not really interested in releasing it before or after the elections because I don't have the slightest intention to hurt anybody or to be the cause of a failure of the election of a certain one who wants to serve the public," Duterte said.

The list, which is said to contain over 80 names of politicians supposedly involved in illegal drugs, was released despite dissent from various government agencies including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

How was it validated?

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told CNN Philippines that the list was validated by the PDEA-led Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs -- which also includes the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Politicians to be included in the list had to be vetted and agreed upon by all four agencies -- otherwise they would not be included, Malaya said.

"If there is one or two agencies that do not agree, we remove the name," Malaya explained. "Only those names upon which all four agreed were included in this initial batch. There are still other names which are currently being investigated and validated."

Malaya said the decision to release the list to the President was upon Duterte's orders, and was also the byproduct of DILG listening to qualms and concerns raised by lawmakers and advocacy groups regarding the security of the politicians named.

"In this case, we have listened actually to the criticism that was heard against us when we first announced that we are going to release the list," he said. "I think, three years since the President came into power, we already have enough evidences to file against them. Given that the President has given the directive, we have no choice but to file the charges."

The DILG added it does not agree with the Commission on Human Rights warning that releasing the list may lead to more election-related violence ahead of the May 13 midterm polls.

"The right of the nation to find out who are involved in illegal drugs, is in our opinion, paramount than anything else," he said. "Tingin ko wala nang masasabit sa ginawa nating proseso [I think there will be no problems in the process we undertook]."

Was it legal or proper to release the list?

Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President Abdiel Fajardo thought government is within its rights to release the list to the public, since cases filed against them will be on public record. Fajardo, however, was more concerned if the filing of the cases was warranted by presently availble evidence.

"If it will be shown the filing was baseless and made only to besmirch the reputations of those named in the so-called list then the people named in the list and who have been made respondents against basis will have causes of action against those who included them in the list," Fajardo told CNN Philippines.

Fajardo said he is also puzzled why, with the officials' alleged involvement in the drug trade, only administrative and not criminal cases were filed against them.

"I'm quite puzzled why only administrative cases were filed against them since if the allegation is correct that they committed offenses under the Anti-drug Act then the most logical cases to be filed are criminal cases," he said.

The IBP lawyer explained an administrative case requires less quantum of proof compared to a criminal.

"Because only substantial evidence is required, the evidence might not be enough to support a conviction in a criminal case," he said.