Robredo on drug list: File cases instead of trial by publicity

Mara Cepeda
'Mahirap ang trial by publicity, kasi ano ang assurance natin na tama ang information?' asks Vice President Leni Robredo, citing mistakes in the previous drug list of the Duterte administration

VP IN LAGUNA. Vice President Leni Robredo addresses representatives of various sectoral groups in Nagcarlan, Laguna, on March 7, 2019. Photo from OVP  

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday, March 6, that the government should “just file cases” against so-called narco politicians so they can be tried in court, instead of subjecting them to trial by publicity through the release of a new drug list.

Robredo made the statment in an interview with reporters in Laguna, where she was asked about a new government drug list supposedly to be released before the May electons.  (READ: PDEA: Drug-linked governors, congressmen, mayors to be named next)

“Siyempre, ayaw natin na mag-elect tayo sa public office ng mga narco politicians, pero kasuhan na sila ngayon. Iyon pala, may ebidensya laban sa kanila, bakit ayaw pang kasuhan? Bakit ita-trial by publicity?” said Robredo.

(Of course, we don’t want narco politicians elected into office, but just file cases against them now. If there are evidence against them, why don’t they file cases? Why resort to trial by publicity?)

Robredo recalled that when President Rodrigo Duterte first released a narco list in 2016, several names turned out to be wrong. 

One judge with alleged links to the drug trade was already dead for 8 years when the list was released. Duterte himself admitted the government made a mistake when it included  Pangasinan 5th District Representative Amado Espino Jr  in its first drug matrix released in 2016.

“Mahirap ang trial by publicity, kasi ano ang assurance natin na tama and information? ‘Di ba noong nakaraang dalawa’t kalahating taon, maraming pagkakataon na binabawi iyong sinasabi, kasi hindi pala na-vet nang maayos. So ito, may mga mabibiktima na mga inosenteng tao,” said Robredo.

(Trial by publicity is hard because what is our assurance the information is correct? In the past two and a half years, there were several instances when they took back what they said because they weren’t able to vet the informaiton correctly. So innocent people get victimized.) 

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has said over the past several days that Malacañang will soon release a new narco list, supposedly dominated by politicians  running in the May elections.

Panelo also said they supposedly got the information from foreign countries that wiretapped local politicians.

Robredo found this method problematic.

“Ako kasi, ‘di ba bawal iyong wiretapping? Bawal sa batas natin iyon. Kaya iyong sa akin, kung may enough evidence galing sa kanila, bakit hindi sila kasuhan? Kasuhan sila sa korte para may pagkakataon sila na depensahan iyong sarili,” said the Vice President.

(For me, isn’t wiretapping prohibited? That’s not allowed under our law. If there are enough evidence from them, why not file cases? File cases in court now so they have a chance to defend themselves.) 

Otso Diretso candidates Erin Tañada and Florin Hilbay both said the threat of releasing another narco list is being used by the Duterte administration to influence the May polls.

Malacañang earlier said politicians who would disputed their inclusion in the next list can just file libel cases.–


Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.