PNP to pursue cases vs. alleged drug-linked barangay officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — Newly-elected barangay officials allegedly linked to illegal drugs aren't off the hook just yet even if they won in the polls.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said they would gather evidence against officials on their narco-list who may have won the elections.

"Kung meron tayong makuha na ebidensya laban sa kanila, talagang kailangan mag-conduct tayo ng case build-up or intelligence build-up against these people," said Albayalde. "Hindi naman porke nanalo sila, ay excused na sila kung talagang involved sila dito sa illegal na droga."

[Translation: If we get evidence against them, we really have to conduct a case or intelligence build-up against these people. If they are really involved in illegal drugs, they aren't excused just because they won the elections.]

The statement comes after the much-awaited barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on Monday. Officials said the polls were "generally peaceful," with no failure of elections.

Two weeks before the elections, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency released to the public over 200 names of barangay officials allegedly involved in illegal drugs. While the PDEA said it was a "validated" list, it also admitted then that it lacked the material evidence to actually file cases against some officials.

Interior Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday that most drug-linked officials lost their seats this year. He cited barangays in Malabon, Paranaque, and Pasay.

"We're happy that a lot of the people who have been identified as drug-linked have not been elected," said Malaya. "We have a new set of leaders now who are hopefully cleaner and more distanced from drug operations."

However, PDEA's narco-list is also contested. Its release was slammed by Human Rights Watch and some senators, including Senate Committee on Public Order Chair Ping Lacson. Lacson said the publicization of the unverified list was "dumb and cruel."

Vote buyers apprehended

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez disclosed that there were still reports of vote-buying. Police said nine suspects were apprehended this year.

"We are going to be pursuing cases against them rather aggressively," Jimenez told CNN Philippines.

He also affirmed that out of 33 suspected election-related deaths since April 14, at least 13 were verified linked to the polls. Two of the victims killed by shooting were candidates.

Police also validated seven of 57 reported violent incidents nationwide as election-related.

"We made some apprehensions, but not in all cases. They're all under investigation right now," said Jimenez.

CNN Philippines correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.