Manila: The government has appealed to voters to reject candidates involved with illegal drugs in the May 14 polls to elect village-level leaders and youth representatives.
“The DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] sees the forthcoming barangay [village] elections as an opportunity for the people to remove officials with ties to illegal drugs. This is the reason why we are urging the public to vote for candidates who are actively fighting the war against drugs at the village level,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said.
The government has already come up with a list of barangay officials with links to drug syndicates, Ano said.
“The decision whether or not to make public the names of barangay officials involved in illegal drugs is the call of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency [PDEA]. Whatever its decision in this matter, the PDEA has our full support,” he said.
Under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law, the PDEA is the lead agency in the anti-illegal drug campaign. It also serves as the chair of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) created by President Rodrigo Duterte under Executive Order No. 15.
“The DILG, through the Philippine National Police [PNP]), has been proactive in supporting the PDEA in the anti-drug war. The DILG will not waver in its commitment to end the menace of illegal drugs and we will provide all the support needed by PDEA,” Ano, the former armed forces chief, said.
Earlier, police officials expressed their concern that drug syndicates will use the grassroots polls to field their candidates.
PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao said those with previous record of being involved or suspected to be involved in the drugs trade will be the subject of closer scrutiny by anti-drug units,
“We will exert our extra effort to monitor the candidates who will be supported by these drug syndicates,” Bulalacao said.
On Sunday, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said barangay poll candidates with drug links “do not deserve the people’s votes”.
“Obviously, they [drug syndicates] will only support local candidates who will give them protection in return,” the PDEA chief said.
“We are appealing to the public to wisely choose our next community leaders,” he added.
He further said there are 289 barangay officials [143 barangay chairmen and 146 barangay councillors] on Duterte’s narco-list.
“The number is expected to increase once the list of barangay officials engaged in drug trade is validated,” Aquino said.