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Saturday, July 13, 2024

New list of ‘narco-pols’ gets DILG head‘s backing

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The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Tuesday threw its support behind the plan by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to release a list of candidates for the 2019 elections who are included in its drug list.

But Interior Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año said the DILG will still consult with PDEA chief Aaron Aquino on how to make public the new list of candidates with alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

The DILG earlier said at least 93 local officials, 58 of whom mayors, are included in the drug list of the PDEA.

Año said he is backing the release of a new listing of narco political bets, but declined to provide a timeline for its disclosure as Aquino is still attending to the case of the five PDEA anti-narcotics agents who were ambushed in Kapai, Lanao del Sur last week.

Año is seeking for the disqualification of candidates linked to either corruption or illegal drugs.

But the Commission on Elections had already ruled that a candidate’s name listed in the drug watch list will not automatically bar anyone from running for a political office pending a final court ruling for a crime the candidate has  committed.

“Being on a drug list will not disqualify a person from running for office. Disqualification only comes from a final judgment against the person, apart from other reasons for disqualification,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez had explained.

But Año said the present law that disallows disqualification of candidates who are not facing a final conviction on various cases was too high a standard.

“Masyadong napakataas nung standard. Even yung nakakulong, kahit nakakulong siya kaya pa niyang kumandidato. We will discuss this with the [Commission on Elections]. Ang ayaw lang natin dito ay makatakbo ang mga drug lords,” Año said.

Responding to Año’s proposition, Senator Koko Pimentel gave an assurance that the Partido Demokratikong Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan to which party he belongs, would not include nor line up the so-called ‘narcopoliticians’ for the 2019 elections.

“I hope other political parties follow suit,” Año said.

The DILG is currently investigating 250 mayors for various corruption offenses and abuse of authority cases.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has strongly condemned the ambush of the five PDEA agents in Lanao del Norte, as it vowed to conduct an immediate investigation to arrest the culprits.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to personally monitor the developments in the case of the slain PDEA agents.

“The President has ordered the Philippine National Police to do everything to arrest those behind these crimes,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing, expressing condolences to the bereaved families of the victims.

“We condemn these killings. These prove the dangers being faced by law enforcement authorities in ending the drug trade. These deaths attest that the drug war is real,” he added.

The five PDEA agents were ambushed by still unidentified suspects as they made their way to Marawi City.

The slain agents were identified as Kenneth Tabulo, Kristine Mae Torlao, Lores Joy Amar, and Binzo Dipolla, who were declared dead on arrival at a hospital, and Diobel Pacinio, who died while undergoing treatment.

Three of the slain agents just recently graduated from the PDEA academy.

Meanwhile, the Palace also condemned the killing of Judge Edmundo Pintac, who was handling the drug cases of the controversial Parojinog siblings.

Pintac, a judge in Ozamiz City Regional Trial Court Branch 15, was on his way home when he was waylaid by 4 motorcycle-riding suspects.

He was handling the cases against Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog for illegal possession of firearms and drugs.

She and her brother Reynaldo Parojinog Jr. were arrested as authorities conducted a pre-dawn raid in their residence in 2017.

Her father Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, who was listed in Duterte’s narco-list, and 14 others were killed during the raid.

In the Senate, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros also condemned the killing of the five PDEA agents, even as

 Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon likewise condemned the murder of Pinta.  He also challenged the Philippine National Police to immediately arrest the killers.

“We cannot afford to let criminal elements intimidate members of the judiciary with violence as we must uphold the rule of law at all times. The state of violence and the unabated killings in our country today is alarming. The PNP must step up its law enforcement efforts,” Drilon said.

Hontiveros, meanwhile, called on PDEA Director Aquino to act swiftly on the case of the slain agents to do justice to the families they left behind.

“The death of our PDEA agents in Mindanao is deplorable. The government must leave no stone unturned as they conduct a swift and judicious investigation of the incident. The perpetrators of this atrocious crime must be held accountable and justice served immediately,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros added that she will support any additional fund allocation request of the agency to ensure the safety and security of their agents while on duty.

“From the start, I have asserted that PDEA, possessing the mandate to push for efficient law enforcement in the fight against illegal drugs, should be the lead agency in the government’s anti-drug campaign,” Hontiveros said.

“Thus, in the deliberation of the proposed 2019 national government budget, we will try to look at areas where PDEA needs additional funding so its agents can perform their duties while ensuring their safety,” Hontiveros added.

She also questioned the effectiveness of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

She said the declaration of Martial Law in the entire Mindanao was presented to the public as a ‘magic bullet’ that would address rampant violence and lawlessness in the region.

“The brutal murder of our PDEA agent has belied this claim. This should serve as a wake-up call to the government. A Martial law-centric strategy to promote law and order in Mindanao is unsustainable. What is needed is a multi-dimensional approach that weaves together effective law enforcement, equitable distribution of social services and the full implementation of peace agreements, including the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Hontiveros said.

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