MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday, March 4, said that local officials who are part of the list for being allegedly involved in illegal drugs "can take their cases to courts" if it's not true.
Panelo said that releasing the drug list ahead of elections is the "duty" of the government to warn against politicians involved in the drug trade.
"Presenting the list by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) [will] tell the electorate on the kind of candidates they will choose from," Panelo said.
"On the fear that it may destroy the presumption of innocence, to my mind, there is judicial remedy for that. If you feel that you have been libeled, you can always go to the courts," Panelo said.
The DILG earlier said that a list of local officials involved in the drug industry will be released ahead of the elections only after they have verified it.
"From the point of view of the voters, it is unfair on them if you don't tell them about your investigation relative to the industry. If they're elected and then suddenly their place is contamindated [with drugs], they will blame the government. 'Why didn't you tell us this? You've known this all the time.' I-balanse natin. (We should balance that)," the presidential spokesperson said.
He added that politicians not involved should have nothing to worry about.
"Kung hindi ka naman involved, anong kinakatakot mo? (If you are not involved, then why should you be afraid?) … Again, if you feel that your rights have been violated, you can always go to the courts," Panelo said.
Asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte would allow such move, Salvador said: "Definitely the Palace will make it a point that the list submitted to it is verified. The President, if you recall, have already released that list. So logically, he will not oppose that." (READ: PDEA: Drug-linked governors, congressmen, mayors to be named next)
In 2018, the DILG and the PDEA was slammed for releasing the drug list containing barangay officials' names before the barangay elections. They drew flak for releasing information that still couldn't stand in court, and could preempt future operations.