Manila: The elections commission has expressed concern over the expanding influence of drug syndicates in the Philippines.

Authorities fear that these groups could exploit the May elections to make inroads into the political sphere.

With just two months left for the elections, Commissioner Rene Sarmiento of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the poll body is worried about a report by the US State Department on the expanding influence of local drug syndicates.

The US State Department, in its 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCS), had said that illegal drugs remain a significant problem in the Philippines due to corruption and poor law enforcement.

"Of course, we are worried, especially so because money from the illegal drugs trade could be used to influence the elections," Sarmiento said in Filipino in a report aired by the station, Bombo Radyo.

There had been insinuations that drug syndicates will take advantage of the coming May 10 elections to get more public officials under their payroll elected.

Sarmiento said the Comelec, sitting as a whole, will take up the issue on narco-politics when it convenes today.


Earlier, Senator Francis Escudero urged the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to identify politicians receiving money from drug syndicates.

"It's important to know this so that any presidential candidate is not ... held by the neck by drug lords," Escudero was quoted by reports as saying.

According to the INCS report, the Philippines' problem concerning drugs remains significant.

"Despite the continued efforts of Philippine law enforcement authorities to disrupt major drug trafficking organisations and dismantle clandestine drug laboratories and warehouses. The Philippines faces challenges in the areas of drug use and production, law enforcement, corruption, and drug trafficking," it said.

It furthered that based on evidences collected from drug seizures in 2008, the Philippines continued to be a producer of methamphetamine and marijuana.

"While the scope of the drug problem is immense, the government had some successes in enforcing counter-narcotics laws, including a large methamphetamine seizure made from a speedboat in Subic Bay, northwest of Manila, and the dismantling of a large clandestine laboratory in northwest Luzon in cooperation with the Philippine National Police," the report said.

The PDEA is the lead counter-narcotics agency. As a relatively new agency, the PDEA's effectiveness remains hampered by a lack of investigatory discipline, leading to the dismissal of cases for insufficient evidence.

"Corruption of police and other public officials remains an obstacle to better law enforcement," the report added.

More than 60 police officials had been relieved in 2009 for their alleged involvement with a clandestine drugs laboratory in La Union province.