MANILA -- It is the constitutional duty of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to inform voters about politicians allegedly linked to the illegal drug trade, MalacaAang said on Monday.
Presidential Chief Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo emphasized that this will help voters make more responsible choices during the elections in May.
The DILG and the PDEA think it is their duty, in fact, constitutional duty to inform the voters on their investigation relative to the drug industry, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Under the Constitution, the right to information is enshrined. Tungkulin ng gobyerno din 'yun (That's the government's duty). At the same time, we have also the presumption of innocence), he added.
Critics have hit both agencies for releasing a narco-list saying it is unfair because it disregards candidates' presumption of innocence.
However, Panelo said it would also be unfair to voters not to let them know about the candidates they are voting for.
From the point of view of the voters, it will also be unfair if you do not tell them exactly your investigation relative to those involved in the drug industry, Panelo said.
If they are elected and then suddenly their place is contaminated with drugs, they will blame the government, he added.
Panelo agreed with calls of Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Sherwin Gatchalian to file criminal charges against these alleged narco-politicians, noting that government is obtaining evidence to make cases against them stronger.
Filing a case is not that easy, you need documentary and testimonial evidence. Now, the idea of presenting a list by the DILG and PDEA is to tell the electorate on the kind of candidates that they will choose from and I think it will help them, Panelo said.
He assured that names on the narco-list have been validated.
Definitely, the Palace will make it a point that the list submitted to it has been validated by the agencies submitting the same, Panelo said.
Panelo said that politicians who have been wrongly accused always have the option to avail of judicial remedies to clear their names.
The fear that it may destroy the presumption of innocence, to my mind there is a judicial remedy for that: If you feel that you've been libeled, you can always go to the courts, Panelo said.
If I were their lawyer and you are threatening to release the name of my client, I can file a case in court to stop you from so doing, he added.
Meanwhile, Panelo also acknowledged that despite being informed about politicians trafficking drugs and corrupting public funds, the uneducated and poor are still drawn to voting them.
Nangyayari iyan kasi (That happens because) most of our electorate are not really that educated. Kulang sa (They lack) formal education, Panelo said.
Maraming mahihirap sa atin, kailangan nila ng pera (There are too many poor Filipinos, they need money, he added.
Once more Filipinos receive formal education, he said he believed they would make informed choices on politicians to represent them.
Source: Philippines News Agency