By Ben Rosario
The election victory of the majority of politicians implicated in the drug trade through President Duterte’ so-called narco list must not stop the government from pursuing their immediate ouster if evidence warrant.
Rep. Ace Barbers (NP, Surigao del Norte), chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, aired this comment as he called for the filing of charges against all of those in the list.
Barbers is joined in this appeal by Reps. Bernadette Herrera Dy (Bagong Henerasyon Partylist); Alfredo Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental); Mayo Almario (PDP-Laban, Davao Oriental); Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) and Ruffy Biazon (NP, Muntinlupa City).
“If the government is serious about it, then it’s best to file charges at the proper courts. That way the accused will be given a fair chance to defend himself,” said Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong.
On the other hand, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio aired strong reservations about the truth in Duterte’s release of suspected narco-politicians.
“Duterte’s narco list, much like his matrix, violates due process and other fundamental rights. He uses it to taint, harass and intimidate elected officials into submission,” said Tinio.
It was reported that the stigma of being in the list failed to stop the victory of many candidates running for local government posts despite being in the list.
Only a handful of those included in the “narco list club” –released at the start of the election campaign period of local government candidates – lost or have decided to drop out from the contest.
Among those who won was Oroquieta City Mayor Jason Paredes Almonte, one of those listed, was even “promoted” after winning the congressional race in Misamis Occidental.
Zambales Rep. Jeffrey Khonghun and his son, Subic Mayor Jefferson Khonghun, were among those linked by Duterte to illegal narcotics.
Poll results showed that Rep. Khonghun won against former Rep. Mitos Magsaysay for the congressional post.
On the other hand, Mayor Jefferson was also re-elected, winning against Liberal Party candidate Ramon Lacbain.
“Government should file charges already especially if the evidence at hand is overwhelming. If proven guilty, then the national government should not think twice in booting them out of office,” said Barbers, whose re-election victory saved his team from being “wiped out” in Surigao del Norte.
Herrera-Dy said winning narco list politicians should be stopped from “retaining their position and from using their position of power” if they are indeed involved in the illegal drug trade.
Benitez, Almario, and Biazon said sufficiency of the evidence is basic in the filing of charges in court, adding that if the government has this in their hands, then cases should be filed immediately.
“Charges were expected as soon as the list was announced before the elections. That would have been the best time to prosecute the alleged narco politicians,” explained Biazon.
Said Almario: “It is not enough for the government to come up with a narco list. Presumably, the list is based on thorough research and evaluation by the concerned agencies, and backed up by no less than the president.”
According to Castelo, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration and the Philippine National Police are “under obligation” to file criminal complaints.
“The DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government” also must level charges against these people and file administrative cases as a basis for suspension if evidence warrants,” said Castelo, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.