By Aaron Recuenco
Government intelligence units will continue to gather evidence to pin down other local politicians allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
Sr. Supt. Bernard Banac, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that PNP is constantly coordinating with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in coming up with witnesses and evidence that could help the government bring narco-politicians to court.
“The PNP and PDEA are working together in monitoring elected officials who are believed to be involved in illegal drugs activities. We continue to gather pieces of evidence and information and validation of reports that we would receive,” said Banac.
President Duterte has identified 46 local politicians which he said have ties to illegal drugs. On the list were three members of the House of Representatives, one provincial board member, 35 mayors, and seven vice mayors.
Initial reports indicated that modern surveillance equipment had assisted the government in verifying the involvement of the local politicians but Malacanang took back the statement.
The intelligence-gathering and validation was then pointed to PDEA, PNP and other government intelligence units.
Banac said a lot of local politicians, most of them reelectionist candidates in the May elections, are initially on the list.
“But because of the validation, the number was reduced to 46,” said Banac.
He, however, said that they continue to establish the connection of those who were not named by the President.
PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said the 46 alleged narco-politicians, whose names were released allegedly after 14 months of revalidation and workshops, are but on the initial list.
“This is only the partial list of narco-politicians. Others are still being revalidated while there are some, who were transferred to civilian list, since they are no longer holding or running for public office,” said Carreon.
“The names of politicians that were not announced are subject for continuous validation and case build-up by the intelligence agencies of the government,” he added.
Carreon said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is also conducting their own investigations.
“These officials will not engage in actual drug transactions unlike our usual drug personalities kaya nga po we sought the help of AMLC and PACC to conduct money laundering investigations, investigations on ill-gotten or unexplained wealth and lifestyle checks,” said Carreon.
Many politicians on the list denied involvement in drugs and questioned the motive for releasing the list and the manner by which the intelligence reports were gathered.
When the first list of hundreds of government employees and politicians involved in illegal drugs were released in 2016, only a handful were subsequently charged in court, according to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Carreon, however, refuted the issue of due process and human rights issue on the release of the list.
“The personalities clearly are still given their day in court since cases were filed by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) wherein they are given the opportunity to defend their rights, seek relief, or set forth their claims,” he said.
Amid questions on the legality of the list’s release, Carreon said the government has a greater responsibility to the state and the public because the interest of the majority is greater than that of the erring few.
“The Supreme Court provided a strong ruling on the superiority of public’s right to information as against an individual’s right to privacy. In several decisions on cases, the Supreme Court affirmed that the right to privacy is not absolute when there is compelling reason to prioritize the interest of the State,” said Carreon.
“The disclosure of valuable and valid information is needed to curtail and minimize corruption amongst officials of the government, to promote the highest standard of honesty in public service and to elevate morality in public administration,” he added.
This is the reason why public officials have limited right to privacy as compared to ordinary individuals, he said.
“These officials serve the public and are therefore accountable to the public. The Constitution, likewise, protects the public’s basic right to information and access to government transactions, documents and operations,” he said.