PDEA chief against release of narco-list ahead of 2019 polls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 12) — If the anti-drug chief would have his way, he would rather not issue a list of politicians supposedly involved in the illegal drugs trade ahead of the May 2019 elections in contrast to what President Rodrigo Duterte has done.

"Personally ako, ayoko. Sana wala na magbigay sa akin ng utos na ilabas. I want to work silently — to just file charges against these politicians, narcopoliticians and meron na kaming adjudication process right now," Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday.

[Translation: Personally, I do not want to release one. I hope no one directs me to release it. I want to work silently — to just file charges against these politicians, narcopoliticians and we have an adjudication process right now.]

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had said  the list released will help voters avoid shun candidates linked to drugs.

The Interior Department also hopes to use the list as a basis to disqualify politicians running in the midterm elections, though election experts said this is unconstitutional.

Aquino said he is confident voters know who among their local officials are involved in drugs, which is enough for them to decide against these people.

"Alam naman ng taumbayan e, sa totoo lang. Kung ikaw ay nakatira sa isang munisipyo, alam na alam mo kung 'yung mayor mo involved sa drugs. Alam ng barangay, alam ng lahat kung bakit yumaman iyan, kung bakit ganito. Bakit nyo pa iboboto? " he said.

[Translation: The people know, to be honest. If you live in a municipality, you would know if your mayor is involved in drugs. The barangay knows, everyone knows why he became rich, why he is like that. Why would you vote for him?]

"Kung 'yung mayor niyo isang kriminal, isang katutak ring kurap tapos involved sa illegal drugs, sino pa naman ang boboto sa mayor na 'yun?" he said.

[Translation: If your mayor is a criminal, with a corrupt mind and is involved in illegal drugs, who would vote for that mayor?]

In April, Aquino told CNN Philippines that Duterte ordered the release of the so-called narco-list containing names of 211 barangay officials ahead of the barangay polls in May. The President then was concerned that drug money funded local campaigns.

Upon release of the list, the PDEA admitted that while it has been "validated," there is not enough evidence for those included to be charged in court.

READ: PDEA still gathering evidence on 200 'validated' drug-linked barangay officials

Rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch have criticized the release of the drug list. They warned it will put the lives of those in the list at risk. Lawmakers like Senator Ping Lacson called it "dumb and cruel."

Aquino had brushed these remarks off. He said in May that the drug list "will not serve as a hit list." He also said he could not do anything but follow Duterte's directive to release it before the filing of charges.

The PDEA chief echoes previous criticisms against the narco-list, adding that its release would lead to further chaos.

"May experience ako nung barangay election e. Maraming nagsasabi it will become a death list 'pag ipinalabas ko iyan. Another one is lalo lang magkakagulo," Aquino said.

[Translation: I had an experience during the barangay elections. A lot of people were saying that it will become a death list if I released it. Another thing is things would only get more chaotic.]

CNN Philippines Multi-platform Writers Xave Gregorio and Regine Cabato contributed to this report.