March 18, 2019
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Duterte names government officials allegedly implicated in drug trade

Manila, Mar 15 (EFE).- Manila, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- The Philippines has named 46 government officials on a controversial "narco list' for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking, just two months before May general elections, according to a statement published on the presidency website on Friday.

"My decision to unmask these drug personalities was anchored on my trust in the government agencies who have vetted and validated the narco-list," said President Rodrigo Duterte said late Thursday night.

Duterte said that the authorities are working to open criminal investigations against these officials and added that the Department of the Interior and Local Government has filed official complaints against them with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The publication of the list, which has been anticipated for the past few weeks, was criticized by human rights groups and experts who said that the announcement violates a presumption of innocence and has political motivations.

The majority of the names on the list - including some 30 mayors, a dozen deputy mayors and three members of the House of Representatives - are candidates for the May 13 poll, considered to be a referendum on Duterte.

Duterte said that he had no special interest in publishing the list before or after the elections as he has “no intention to hurt anybody."

The president said there was a solid basis upon which the officials were included on the "narco list" and warned that the there are more government officials in the spotlight, but that evidence is being gathered before making names public.

The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights said the list would constitute a denial of a person's right to due process and urged the authorities "to undertake more effective legal measures in identifying, arresting and prosecuting big-time drug lords, their foreign partners, backers in the PNP."

The "narco list" is another step in Duterte’s war against drugs, which has killed more than 5,000 people according to the authorities, although civil society groups have raised the figure to some 20,000 killings in a climate of impunity.

Two crimes against humanity cases have been filed against Duterte at the International Criminal Court, which is expected to give its judgment soon on whether the preliminary examination will be raised to a formal one.

Duterte announced last year that the Philippines will withdraw from the ICC, with the decision effective from Sunday.

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