MANILA, Philippines – Inclusion in the drug list does not mean a ticket to jail.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) admitted on Thursday, April 26, that not all barangay officials named in the drug list it is set to publish will immediately face drug charges.
"We need to add up on case buildup. Hindi pa talagang airtight 'yung kaso, although validated na siya na involved sa illegal drugs, pero 'yung kaso, baka ma-dismiss, kasi nga hindi strong enough so we need to add up. We need to add on the case buildup," PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino told Rappler in an interview.
(The cases are really not airtight, although we have validated that they are involved in illegal drugs, but the case can still be dismissed, because [the evidence] is not yet strong enough so we need to add up.)
What does this mean? The PDEA believes all the names in the drug list they are about to release are involved in illegal drugs. They are not confident yet, however, that they have enough evidence to convict everyone on the list.
They need to gather more evidence for their public accusation to prosper into legal complaints and convictions. (READ: PDEA, NBI, PNP quizzed: Where did Duterte get drug list info?)
"Iba-iba naman ang kaso ng bawat barangay. 'Yung iba malakas na malakas na, kailangan lang sigurong dagdagan pa, 'yung iba naman talagang medyo kakaunti lang although alam mo talagang positive sila pero kailangan mo pang dagdagan," Aquino said.
(There is a different case for each barangay [official]. Others may be strong cases (against the suspects), maybe we just need to add more. For the others, the evidence are not enough, but you know that they're positive (for drug cases) but you need to build more [evidence].)
Is this a violation of due process? Aquino said that if village officials feel like they've been wrongly accused and deprived of due process, they can file cases against PDEA.
"They can file their case. First of all, this is an order of the President. Second of all, I know what I am doing, I'm just doing this for our country," Aquino said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"My legal team is ready, and they are ready to deal with it. They can face my legal team. I know that the government would fully support me," Aquino added.
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.