Chel Diokno to Duterte: Stop weaponizing lists

Mara Cepeda
Chel Diokno to Duterte: Stop weaponizing lists


Otso Diretso candidates Erin Tañada and Florin Hilbay also slam the government for threatening to release a new narco list, saying it is aimed to influence the elections

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights lawyer and senatorial candidate Chel Diokno slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for weaponizing lists against government critics.

The Otso Diretso senatorial bet was asked during Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant senatorial forum on Monday, March 4, what he suggests should be done so people in power will not break the law.

“Dapat tigilan na ng Pangulo, ng pamahalaan, ‘yung paggamit ng listahan (The President, the govenrment, should stop using lists). They have weaponized lists,” Diokno said.

He recalled that in 2016, Duterte released a list of cops, politicians, and judges who were supposedly involved in the drug trade. But one judge in the list was already dead.

“But imagine the impact of that on the living judges. Ang naisip ng mga judge: ‘Eh kung ‘yung patay nga na judge ay nailagay doon ‘yung pangalan, paano pa kaya kami?’ (The judges now think: If a dead judge’s name was included in the list, what more our names?)” Diokno said.

“In that single stroke, that destroyed the independence of the judiciary. Followed by the attack on the chief justice, the removal of chief justice [Maria Lourdes] Sereno, that laid the last nail on the coffin of judicial independence,” he added. 

Diokno also said the country needs a justice system that “can stand up to political pressure.”

For him, this means changing the way members of the judiciary are appointed, as judges of lower courts up to justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President. Even members of the Judicial and Bar Council that vets the applicants are appointed by the President too. 

“Sobrang utang na loob nila sa Pangulo. Kaya ‘pag may pumapasok sa kanilang kaso, kung mata-tackle nila ang involved o mismo ang Malacañang, wala na silang magawa,” Diokno said. 

(They feel so indebted to the President. That’s why whenever they handle a case and end up having to tackle the people involved or those from Malacañang, they can’t do anything.)

Looming narco list to ‘influence’ May polls?

Two more Otso Diretso candidates – former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay – likewise slammed the Duterte administration for recently threatening to release another narco list. 

Tañada said the the timing is “suspect” since the campaign period for the May elections is ongoing.

“Ang pumapasok sa aming isipan, eh talagang ito’y puwedeng gamitin para takutin ang mga local government officials na dapat sumunod sila sa utos ng sinumang leader nila. Kundi baka ilabas ‘yung pangalan nila sa narco list,” Tañada said on the sidelines of their campaign sortie in Muntinlupa City on Tuesday, March 5. 

(We think this can be used to scare local government officials who must follow the orders of whoever is their leader. Otherwise, their names would appear in the narco list.)

“It is meant to influence the [local government units], it is meant to influence the voters also for the coming elections,” he added.  

Hilbay also called the list as “patently unconstitutional” and a “Damocles’ sword” meant to scare off local officials.

Yung narco list kasi, it’s a shortcut of our constitutional rights. It’s against the presumption of innocence, it’s against due process, and parang nale-label agad kung sinuman ‘yung mga local governments na puwedeng malagay,” Hilbay said. 

(The narco list is a shortcut of our constitutional rights. It’s against the presumption of innocence, it’s against due process, and the local government officials may be wrongly labelled.) –

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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.