By Chito Chavez
In what is expected to send shivers down the public’s spine, some 9,000 barangay chiefs are on President Duterte’s “narco-list,” prompting the government to warn the public to shun political aspirants with illegal-drug affiliation.
Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño made the revelation two months before the holding of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May.
He said the President is hell bent on eliminating the country’s “narco-politicians’’ through legal means with the DILG conducting a thorough probe on the 9,000 barangay chiefs and other politicians with illegal drug links.
Diño, a former barangay captain, said officials linked to drugs will be removed from office.
“Hindi lang ilalabas, tatanggalin ko na lang sila, mas gusto kong makasuhan, mabulok sila sa kulungan dahil, unang-una, pinagkatiwalaan sila ng mga tao tapos ganito gagawin nila, magmamalabis sila (I will not merely make their names public but I will also remove them from office. I prefer that cases be filed against them. They should rot in jail since in the first place they betrayed public trust by abusing their authority),” he said.
Earlier, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director-General Aaron Aquino said there are almost 300 barangay officials linked to illegal drugs.
The PDEA appealed to the electorate to reject voting drug-tainted barangay officials who are seeking reelection in the coming barangay polls slated on May 14.
“Reject those barangay candidates who are involved in illegal drug activities. They do not deserve the people’s votes,” said Aquino.
Aquino said that it is very likely drug money may seep into the electoral process of barangay elections due to the influence of drug syndicates since “obviously they will only support local candidates who will give them protection in return.”
“Incumbent barangay officials, or prospective bets who are linked to drugs, may continue to lord it over the polls. We do not want that to happen. Our destiny lies in our own hands. We are appealing to the public to wisely choose our next community leaders,” he added.
There are 289 barangay officials (143 barangay chairmen and 146 barangay kagawads) on the narco-list of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Aquino said the number is expected to increase once the validated list of barangay officials engaged in the drug trade who are included in the PDEA National Drug Information System (NDIS), sets in.
“PDEA is urging barangays to activate their respective Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADACs), and be cooperative and pro-active in the anti-illegal drug campaign,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the decision whether or not to release to the public the names of barangay officials involved in illegal drugs is the call of the PDEA.
“Whatever the decision of PDEA in this matter has our full support. We wish to clarify that the “narco list” is not prepared and maintained by the DILG. It is prepared and maintained by PDEA. What the DILG and its attached agencies do is to provide information on drug personalities and activities to PDEA for verification and inclusion in the narco-list. As lead agency in the fight against illegal drugs, PDEA prepares and finalizes the list and acts on it accordingly.’’ the DILG said in a statement.
March 21 deadline
Diño also warned barangay officials who refuse to submit their respective barangay drug watch-list by March 21 of strict sanctions saying that this is mandatory.
“Tama ang ating chief of PDEA. Ang mga hindi magsa-submit dito, ‘yung mga directly involved. Kailangan within the week mag-submit sila kung hindi sila magsa-submit, warning. On the second week, suspension na. On the third week, subject for removal from office,” he said.
Diño said all barangay chiefs are also required to submit an inventory of their barangay’s supplies and equipment so the DILG can monitor their use of public funds.
The DILG has warned lawless elements that the agency will strictly impose the gun ban, use of police bodyguards or confidential agents, and other prohibitions related to the Barangay and Sangguniaang Kabataan (SK) elections in May.
DILG officer-in-charge (OIC) Eduardo Año said the department is in constant coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to determine errant groups, including political aspirants, violating the prohibitions.
Año has already given instructions to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to begin preparations for the strict implementation of the gun ban and for the recall of police bodyguards during the campaign period which starts on April 14.
“The PNP should now start preparing the recall letters and send them before the election period starts,” Año said.
Based on Comelec Resolution No. 10247, the DILG, together with the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and other law enforcement agencies were deputized to assist the Comelec in enforcing the said prohibitions.
Año also directed the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to be on guard against illegal release of prisoners before and after the elections as provided by Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.
Other prohibited acts from May 4 up to the eve of the election are construction or maintenance of barangay-funded roads and bridges; appointment or hiring of new employees, creation of new position, promotion, giving of salary increases, remuneration or privileges.
DILG Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that both the DILG and Napolcom are tasked by the Comelec to assist in the effective implementation of elections laws, rules and regulations, thus they will be mobilizing the entire personnel of the department to ensure compliance with election laws.