Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the plan of PDEA to release the names of barangay officials who are allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the plan of PDEA to release the names of barangay officials who are allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade

Public officials are expected to uphold ethical conduct, possess good moral character, and are not supposed to be engaged in any illegal activities, such as drug use and trade.  As civil servants, they are and will always be held to a higher standard.

We understand that the plan of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to release the names of barangay officials who are allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade intends to inform voters that these officials are not worthy of public office. However, presumption of innocence and right to due process must not be compromised as these are Constitutional guarantees to ensure that human rights are protected at all times.

The Commission agrees that there is a need to cleanse the local government from those who exacerbate the drug problem. We, however, urge the PDEA to be more discerning in releasing any information pertaining to the drug list. Rule of law dictates that filing a case in the court is the proper way to apprehend and exact accountability from erring public officials.

Making public accusations without due process subjects those concerned to undue shame, violates their right to fair trial, erodes their dignity, and results to suffering of their families. Such consequences are irreversible should it be eventually proven that the allegedly erring officials are innocent. Hence, due process must be observed to ensure that rights are respected and to exact accountability where appropriate.

If the intention is to cleanse the local government from those involved in drugs, the legal process is the best way to ensure that those proven to be erring local executives can no longer serve or return to public office. In this way, the government can demonstrate that it is firm in its policies and programs while ensuring that no undue harm is done and the rights and dignity of people are respected and protected. ■

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