Name and shame
As he promised, President Duterte on Thursday named 46 politicians alleged to be involved in the illegal drug trade. The 43 local government officials and three congressmen on the so-called narco list now face charges before the Office of the Ombudsman – but not for drug-related offenses.
The 46 were publicly named after the Department of the Interior and Local Government filed administrative complaints against them for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest and unbecoming of a public officer as well as gross neglect of duty. The President has given orders to pursue money laundering cases against the 46 and to intensify efforts to pin them down on drug charges.
Those additional probes could determine if the initial cases filed would stand in court. Several of the 46 denied the charges against them and complained that they were unfairly tagged and deprived of the right to presumption of innocence. Others dismissed their public naming as political intrigue during an election period. One of the congressmen said he would sue those responsible for maligning his reputation.
The administration has said the list is meant to help voters make informed choices in the midterm elections in May. Drug trafficking, however, is a serious offense that can merit life in prison. Apart from influencing voters by identifying suspected offenders, the government must see to it that drug dealers are prosecuted and made to pay for their crime.
The war on drugs has been a top priority of the Duterte administration. If the government wants this shaming campaign to serve as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking, it must make sure that the accusations will stick. Officials have said the politicians were sufficiently vetted before they were included in the narco list that the President made public, with more to be named after further verification. Although it’s called a narco list, however, the public is still waiting for drug-related cases to be filed against the 46.
No one wants the country to turn into a narco state, and drug dealers have no business being in politics. Narco politicians, however, must be successfully prosecuted before they can be locked away. The government must make sure its shame campaign will be backed up with airtight legal cases.