A dreadful list

Throughout history there is always a list that poses grave danger to those on it. The list is the sword of Damocles hanging over the head like waiting for the executioner’s ax to fall.

President Rodrigo Duterte has prepared such a list that is now called “Narco List” containing the names of elected officials that the President alleges to be involved in illegal drugs. A partial list was released last week but not all names were revealed. The public only knew of those who immediately came out to deny their involvement but deny as they could, the stain has been splashed all over the country and the world as the President and the anti-drug agencies insisted that thorough investigation and validation were conducted to insure the credibility of the list.

Human rights advocates and several senators as well as those listed charged the government of violation of the rights of those included in it. They view the list, but more so, the publication, as an attempt to convict them in the court of public opinion. Indeed, the public has been prepared for this list; in fact the public appetite was whetted by prior and repeated announcements of its preparation.

It was awaited with dread by elected officials. The list is already an accusation that most people are prone to believe to be true considering that the President said it so and the anti-drug agencies had backed him up. Surely the President would not have attempted to prepare and publish such a list without legal study. He is a lawyer and knows the law and he has many legal minds to consult.

Of course, the people included in the list have yet to be charged in court but the public domain is always quick to render its verdict of guilty until the person is proven innocent. This is a reversal of our constitutional principle that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. That is sad, to say the least, but that is reality.

The list released last week is partial – another will be forthcoming. Who will be in there? How will their election be affected? One mayor declared his constituency will not believe he is guilty as the President insinuates through the list. But how certain is he? Is he comfortable as it stands?

There are several mayors in Western Visayas who are reportedly included in the list, but no names have been mentioned except the mayor of Iloilo who had abandoned his office and left for abroad for fear of his life. That was wise decision but hardly a proof of innocence. I think that he will return when President Duterte has left office and he will fight back. Three more years is not a long time.

Bacolod City was also thrown into the eye of a storm when the name of Mayor Evelio Leonardia burst into cyberspace where he was portrayed as having been publicly told by the President to stop engaging in illegal drugs. The firestorm created by the portrayal placed Leonardia’s reelection bid in jeopardy so that quickly he and his legal team declared they will file cases against those who sent the video into orbit for the world to see.

Leonardia claimed the clip was tampered and accused his political rival, Monico Puentevella and his sons of the deed. Puentevella said he is ready to face the accusers in the event a case is filed in court. This will be interesting and many await the Leonardia camp to file the charge as early as possible. Indeed, there is not much “evidence” to collect because the alleged cybercrime is posted in the internet and there are dozens of people who have recorded the event.

One top official I met last week confirmed what the internet portrayed with more information about the incident. Since he was there and he has clips of that moment, the case against Puentevella and sons would be easy enough to prove or disprove. Moreover, there are sophisticated technology to determine whether there was tampering or not. Leonardia does not need people for witnesses.

The charge against Puentevella and sons should be filed and decided immediately in order to prove Leonardia’s allegation of tampering. To delay will be to create the impression that the incident is true as claimed.

We also wait for the second list.

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