“O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.” –William Penn
Somebody from the Iloilo City Council and the Iloilo Provincial Board should stand up, deliver a speech, and oppose the unpalatable and dangerous plan by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año to release a “narco list” that reportedly includes the names of 82 politicians, many of whom are running for office in the upcoming midterm elections in May.
If local legislators are afraid to criticize Año on this matter, Ilonggos should defend those who believe in the rule of law, presumption of innocence, due process, and fair play. With a history of opposing national policies and executive decisions that threaten people’s fundamental rights and freedom, Ilonggos can aggressively and substantially make the issue a national conversation.
It is clear some Ilonggo officials will be on the list (the charges brought up against them are well-known but have yet to be substantiated). Many others may be innocent and are victims of black propaganda, political intrigue, vendetta, mudslinging, personal hatred, gossip, or false identity. However, the list has no legal basis and is not derived from truth – and it shouldn’t be considered as containing the truth. The list may contain lies, fabrications, and distortion of facts; as one of the 10 Commandments says: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
The DILG secretary’s move is potentially setting a very bad precedent since local officials are at the agency’s beck and call. Governors and mayors are at the mercy of the DILG boss and, if this cabinet official is incompetent (or has no solid background in local government issues), chances are they will be easily manipulated by higher-ups; in this case, an appointing official with a vindictive character and malevolent political agenda. If the DILG secretary is then swallowed up by toxic political intramurals, local officials – governors, mayors, barangay captains, police officers – are sitting ducks, unsafe from persecution and abuse.
According to the DILG, “Voters have the right to know which politicians are involved in illegal drugs, as a guide on which candidates shouldn’t get their support in the upcoming elections.” However, those on the list have a right to due process and deserve an opportunity to defend themselves in a proper forum. The Philippines is a country of laws, not powerful appointed officials passing judgment with absolute finality.
Alex P. Vidal, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo/WDJ