Gov’t hard-pressed to prove charges vs narco-pols

NOW that the controversial narco-list is out, the most challenging part facing government prosecutors is to prove that the politicians named, most of them running in the May 13 local elections, are really involved in illegal drug trafficking and abuse and see their conviction by the court.

The list would also determine if voters will “convict or acquit” most of the 43 local government officials and three members of the House of Representatives by either voting for them anew or junking them in the May 13 polls. Right now, there is no official word on whether the 46 alleged narco-pols would be stripped of their authorized bodyguards or licensed weapons as well as Comelec gun ban exemption permits, if they have any.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission have been tasked by President Duterte to help in pinning down those on the list by gathering evidence of their alleged ill-gotten wealth from illegal drug activities.

The cases were filed before the Ombudsman by the Department of the Interior and Local Government upon orders of President Duterte. According to Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Bernard M. Banac, the list provided by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency headed by Director General Aaron N. Aquino was drawn up through a “coordinated and synchronized act” by all members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs of which both the DILG and the PNP are members.

Journal Group sources said that DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año wanted the narco-list to be released by the President himself since the latter is immune from legal suits.  The DILG chief had pushed for the release of the narco-list saying it would serve as a guide for voters in the forthcoming May 13 national and local elections.

President Duterte late Thursday evening said cases had been filed against the politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade with the Office of the Ombudsman.  “So this is already a validated report,” Duterte said during a joint police-military command conference in Davao City.

Secretary Año said the 46 narco pols are facing administrative charges for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross neglect of duty.

According to the DILG chief, the involvement of the respondents in illegal drugs was evaluated and judiciously validated by the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) chaired by PDEA in coordination with the PNP, the Armed Forces and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency among others.

“The DILG’s involvement in the ICAD is impelled by its statutory role as general supervisor of local government units (LGUs) and their officials to ensure that they are performing their duties and functions under the law,” said Año.

As early as August 2016, President Duterte had already announced a long list of names of personalities who are allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade which includes magistrates, local executives, and retired and active police officers.

Consequent to the President’s announcement, the ICAD, in coordination with PDEA, PNP, AFP, NICA and other agencies, conducted and performed further validation on the personalities included in the list and those who, while initially excluded, were found to be potential violators, coddlers, and active participants and stakeholders in the illegal drug trade.

“While the vetting and validations were separately done by the agencies, the process was coordinated and synchronized under the leadership of PDEA to ensure that all bases are covered and that no lapses will be made in the process,” said DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya.

Malaya said that the filing of charges shows that the ICAD chaired by PDEA is confident of the list. “With the filing of cases with the Ombudsman, those in the initial narco-list that was released by the President will now have an opportunity to refute or rebut the allegations against them,” he said.

With Joel dela Torre