Iloilo officials should rap Año’s dangerous edict

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL

“O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.” –William Penn

NEW YORK CITY — Somebody from the Iloilo City Council and the Iloilo Provincial Board should stand up, deliver a speech, and oppose the unpalatable and dangerous plan of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año to release the “narco list” containing allegedly 82 names of politicians, many of them running for election in May this year.

If local legislators in other parts of the Philippines are afraid to criticize Año on this dicey subject matter for obvious reasons, Ilonggos should pick up the cudgels for those who believe in the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, the due process and fair play nationwide.

With their splendid history in opposing national policies and executive decisions that threaten the people’s fundamental rights and freedom, Ilonggos can aggressively and substantially tackle the issue and make a good case in a national conversation.

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We’re sure some of the names on the watchlist are Ilonggo leaders; and the charges against them, as we very well know, have not been substantiated thoroughly and were mostly culled from Kalypso’s cocoon.

Many of those on the watchlist could be innocent and may only be victims of black propaganda, political intrigues, vendetta, mudslinging, personal hatred, gossip, false identity. 

The list had no legal basis in truth and in fact, and shouldn’t be considered to be containing the gospel truth. 

It may contain lies or fabrication and distortion of facts; and one of Moses’ 10 Commandments had cautioned us “not to bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Año’s move might set a very bad precedence since local government unit executives are under the agency’s beck and call; the elected governors and mayors are under the mercy of a sitting DILG boss who wields awesome power and influence.

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If the DILG secretary is incompetent, or doesn’t have a solid background in local government issues that include community relations and empowerment of marginalized sectors, chances are he can be easily manipulated by a higher authority, in this case the appointing official with a vindictive character and a malevolent political agenda. 

And if the DILG secretary himself has been swallowed up by the prevailing toxic political intramurals, the local government unit executives–governors, mayors, village chiefs, police officers–will be like sitting ducks and not safe from persecution and abuse.

The DILG insisted that “the voters have the right to know which politicians are involved in illegal drugs, as a guide on which candidates shouldn’t get their support in the upcoming elections.”

Those on the watchlist have the right to be given their due process and the opportunity to defend themselves in the proper forum.

The Philippines is a country of laws, not of powerful appointed officials passing judgment with absolute finality on elected local leaders accused of capital crimes. 

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

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