Impending release of drug watchlist puts lives at risk – rights group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 27) — A human rights group warned against the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency's impending release of barangay officials allegedly involved in illegal drugs.

The Human Rights Watch on Friday said naming the 211 barangay officials on the government's "narco-list" or drug watchlist will put their lives at risk.

"The Duterte administration will be putting hundreds of people in danger if it released the names of barangay (village) officials it accuses of involvement in the illegal drugs trade," HRW said in a statement.

The international nongovernment organization said the release of the narco-list will deprive the suspects the right to due process.

"This virtual hit list violates due process and is an affront to the rule of law," it said.

It added the government should instead strengthen its evidence against the personalities, adding they should be charged in court instead of vilified in public.

The PDEA on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte gave the order to release the names on the narco-list.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said the list will be released to the public on Friday.

"The list came from all intelligence units. These 211 are validated, (it is) confirmed they are involved in illegal drugs," Aquino told CNN Philippines.

Of this number, 89 are barangay chairmen while the rest are councilmen (kagawad), Aquino told CNN Philippines.

He said authorities are building up cases against these drug-linked officials, making sure they have strong evidence against them.

Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde welcomes the disclosure of the narco-list.

"We support his decision. To provide our electorate a chance to choose and decide who to vote," he said.

The Interior Department has said a task force will be created to investigate barangay officials linked to drugs.

The impending release of the narco list comes in the wake of the election period. The campaign period for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections is on May 4 to May 12; elections are on May 14.