THE Interior Department said Thursday it is ready to file cases against at least 50 local government officials suspected of having links to the illegal drug trade that President Rodrigo Duterte included in his latest drug matrix.
Interior Undersecretary John Castriciones, chief of Task Force Agila probing the so-called narco-politicians, said they are currently building up cases against the local officials.
“Our movements are below radar and discreet, considering the sensitive nature of the job,” Castriciones said.
Before leaving for Vietnam, Duterte said he would reveal the names of the people on his latest list, consisting of a number of judges, policemen, soldiers, lawmakers and local executives, including hundreds of barangay officials.
Castriciones said the investigators did not want to alert or unduly alarm the suspects.
“We are dealing with drug syndicates and I’m sure they will do[what they can] to frustrate the outcome of this investigation,” he emphasized.
In the course of the investigations, some mayors have refused to cooperate on the ground that they are already being subjected to a probe by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the PNP.
“Despite the President and Secretary Michael Sueno’s strict directives, some persons of interest are simply uncooperative,” Castriciones said.
Castriciones said the information against the local officials is continuously being subjected to validation and cross-validation aimed at strengthening the department’s documentary evidence.
Castriciones admitted that there were risks involved in investigating persons of interest who maintained private armed groups.
“Already, there are reports that some local executives named by the president are being protected by notorious armed groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters,” he said.
The Palace on Thursday played down Duterte’s admission that he made a mistake in naming Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino and two other provincial officers as being involved in the illegal drug trade, saying the people trusted Duterte, not the list.
“Maybe more than trusting the list, let’s trust the President. I mean after all, he has publicly said, I made a mistake. I apologize. I’m sorry,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing.
Abella also said there was no political accommodation with Espino, after the President cleared him of involvement in illegal drugs.
“As far as I know and as far as we all know, there was no political accommodation. But definitely, if I know the character of the President, there was no such thing,” he added.
On Tuesday, Duterte said that he found certain “gaps” in the intelligence information linking incumbent Pangasinan representative Espino, Pangasinan provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and provincial board member Raul Sison to the illegal drug matrix happening inside the national penitentiary.
Duterte earlier tagged the three officials, along with his nemesis Senator Leila de Lima, her former driver Ronnie Dayan, former Justice undersecretary Francis Baraan and former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu in the so-called “Muntinlupa connection,” the syndicate which allegedly condoned the illegal drug transactions happening inside the NBP.
In Northern Mindanao, a police revamp continued two weeks after 12 chief of police were sacked for poor performance in the campaign against illegal drugs.
The body count in the government’s war on drugs rose again Thursday, after 10 people were killed in three separate shootouts in Quezon City Wednesday night.
In a report to National Capital Region Police Office director Oscar Albayalde, Quezon City Police District director Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said the fatalities, two of whom were involved in robbery incidents, resisted arrest and shot it out with the police.
Six of the suspects were killed in an encounter with officers on Pasacola Street, Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon.
Eleazar identified the suspects as Jose Francisco Ledesma, 49; Ronaldo Ceron, 46; Ronnie Bardon, 27; Jonathan Abe, 36; Leticia Paclon, and Golber Almero, 37, all residents of Pasacola Street.
In another shootout with the police officers of Batasan Station 6 in Barangay Holy Spirit, drug suspects by the nickname of Moymoy and an unidentified man were slain for drug peddling.
Two suspected robbers, who were also included in the drug watch list, were slain in another shootout Thursday.
They were identified as Marlon Saren, 22, and John Paul Ocdina, 19, who was ranked no. 8 in Barangay Masambong’s top 10 most wanted persons.
At gunpoint, the suspects robbed a female of her cellphone at around 11 a.m. on Edsa corner Congressional Avenue, Barangay Ramon Magsaysay. With John Paolo Bencito, Rio N. Araja, Lance Baconguis
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