Duterte publicly names 46 officials under drug investigation

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2018, file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses congressmen and Government officials during the presentation of Republic Act bills in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines. Duterte on Thursday, March 14, publicly named 46 government officials, including three congressmen, he said are involved in illegal drugs, and added that criminal investigations against them are underway.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday publicly named 46 government officials, including three congressmen, he said are involved in illegal drugs, and added that criminal investigations against them are underway.

Although critics have warned him against making such public announcements without solid evidence, Duterte said in a peace and order meeting shown on nationwide TV that he trusted the government agencies that provided the information.

"My decision to unmask these drug personalities was anchored on my trust in the government agencies who had vetted and validated the narco list," Duterte said. He said the Department of Interior and Local Government has filed administrative complaints against the politicians.

The government's Anti-Money Laundering Council and a presidential anti-corruption commission are both investigating the officials to build criminal cases against them, Duterte said. Many of the officials, including 33 mayors, eight vice mayors and three members of the House of Representatives, are running in midterm elections in May.

Duterte said he did not aim to undermine the politicians ahead of the May 13 elections but decided to identify them after their involvement in the drug trade was validated by authorities.

The officials named by Duterte did not immediately respond. Duterte said other officials were also involved but that he had decided not to name them until their complicity is ascertained.

"Those which have already been filed have somewhat been validated," he said.

Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead and has alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.

The drug killings have sparked two complaints of mass murder to the International Criminal Court. A prosecutor there is looking into the complaints and is expected to announce soon whether to elevate the inquiry into an investigation.

Duterte took steps last year to withdraw the Philippines from the international court, an action that would take effect on March 17. He has often lashed out at the court and the prosecutor examining the allegations against him, saying the court will never acquire jurisdiction over him and threatening the prosecutor with arrest if she travels to the Philippines.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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