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Up to voters if they vote for candidates on narco list —Comelec

Voters will have to decide if they will choose any candidate who lands on the Department of Interior and Local Government's (DILG) drugs list and charged for failing to meet their requirements.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez restated Wednesday that only aspirants who received final conviction on crimes involving moral turpitude are disqualified from running for office.

Those who are charged but not convicted may still run for public office, Jimenez said in a forum at Cafe Adriatico in Manila, but the "public will definitely be very aware" of the cases.

"Apart from just conducting elections, gusto rin sana natin na matino 'yung makuha ng mga barangay natin. And kung legit naman 'yung kaso, kung may pagbabasehan then, I don't know, comeuppance ba 'yan," Jimenez said.

The barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will be held on May 14.

Jimenez later stated that the Comelec had nothing to do with filing the cases and said it was up to the DILG's discretion if they will push through with the charges.

He made the statement in light of DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño ordering barangay chiefs to activate their Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC) and implement anti-drug abuse programs or face charges.

This echoes DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya's earlier pronouncement that officials who failed to organize their BADAC and are also on the verified drugs watch list by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) may be charged.

Diño was invited to the forum in Manila but did not make an appearance.

Upon his appointment in January, Diño required barangay captains to submit a list of drug personalities in their area lest they get sacked.

Should the charges push through, Jimenez said nothing will change in the conduct of the May 14 barangay and SK elections.

"If you're going to put it in the context of our election calendar, 'yung ating halalan is less than a month away. Baka wala na ring effect 'yan — at least walang tangible effect doon sa conduct ng election," he said.

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal believes releasing the drugs watch list to the public will "not do any good" unless the individuals on the list are also charged.

"The right thing to do is, have a list. If you want to release it, do it, simultaneously filing cases against these erring officials," Larrazabal, a practicing election lawyer, said.

"Will it stop the officials from filing a COC [certificate of candidacy]? No. But it will create more awareness for the voters on the possible reasons not to vote for the candidates," he continued.

While the Supreme Court ruled that making drug tests mandatory was unconstitutional, Larrazabal said voters may demand candidates to undergo drug testing in addition to baring their plan of action once elected.

"Each individual voter has a say or has a voice in making sure they get the word out, they get the candidates to do what they want," he said. "It's up to the voter to choose the right candidate because they'll be stuck with that candidate for the next two years."

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, in a separate news forum on Wednesday, said charges should immediately be filed against barangay officials included in the drug list if the government really has strong evidence about their involvement in illegal drug operations.

Officials elected this year will only have a two-year term due to the postponements. Terms of barangay and SK officials will return to the usual three year-term in the May 2020 polls.

The May 14 polls will be the first barangay and youth council polls in five years after the postponement of the October 2016 and 2017 polls. —KG, GMA News