After revealing 46 names of local politicians involved in the illegal drug trade
, President Rodrigo R. Duterte is set to expose 50 more politicians whose cases are currently being validated.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the 50 names are the ones that were not read by the President during the joint National and Regional Peace and Order Council meeting here Thursday evening.
Año said there are actually 96 names of local government officials on the narco-list, 46 of which were already revealed by the President.
“The others are still under validation so more will be released by the President,” he said in Filipino.
Año said validation began in 2017.
“Their [officials’] involvement is varied—there are protectors and coddlers, others are really involved,” he said.
Año said some of the politicians in the list have been dismissed.
“Others are still under suspension but we have included them in the list because there is no finality yet from the courts and the Office of the Ombudsman on their cases so they can still run [for office],” he added.
Año clarified that all 46 politicians named by the President are incumbent officials, but four of them are not seeking reelection.
Of the 46 officials in the narco-list
, 35 are mayors, seven are vice mayors, three are members of the House of Representatives, and one is a provincial board member.
Año said the DILG has already filed complaints against the 46 officials.
Duterte said his decision to reveal the names of the 46 officials was anchored on his trust in the government agencies that have vetted and validated the list.
The President reminded fellow government officials that “public office is a public trust.”
An official’s right to privacy, he said, is not absolute and there is a compelling reason to prioritize the interest of the state and the people.
“As your President, my ultimate concern is the pursuit of order in government and the welfare of the Filipino people. My administration assures you of our dedication to change the lives of Filipinos now, not tomorrow,” he said.
On the remaining names, Duterte said, “I just want to be doubly sure.”
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, whose name was on the list, said he would resign if the authorities can prove his involvement in illegal drugs.
But Veloso, a former Court of Appeals justice, said Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Director General Aaron Aquino should resign should they fail to prove his alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
“If they cannot prove why they put me in that list, the should resign,” said Veloso, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments.
Veloso said his inclusion in the list was based on rehashed charges of which he was already cleared.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the so-called narco-list is a desperate act to save the fake drug war of the government.
“The public-shaming that the government is resorting to is aimed to intimidate and control the local politicians in the coming elections. This is also a mere show of bravado to make the people believe that the war on drugs is working. It is not,” said Alejano.
Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin warned of a possible impeachment case against Duterte, saying his powers are not absolute.
“While the right to privacy is not absolute, there is no compelling reason for the state to violate it as we have a functioning court system where charges can be filed against these individuals. This could constitute an impeachable offense for culpable violation of the Constitution,” said Villarin.
Veloso said his inclusion in the list had damaged his reputation.
“I have been unduly injured by this list and those responsible for the inclusion of my name in that list must be sued criminally, must be penalized criminally,” said Veloso.
Subic town Mayor Jay Khonghun, son of Zambales Rep. Jeffrey Khonghun, was also included in the list, denied the allegations against him in a Facebook video.
Two town mayors in South Cotabato province branded on Friday as “politically-motivated” their inclusion in Duterte’s list of narco-politicians.
Incumbent Mayors Albert Palencia of Banga and Pablo Matinong Jr. of Sto. Niño said in separate radio interviews that they were saddened and disappointed with their continuing implication by authorities in the illegal drug trade.
The two mayors—both seeking reelection in the coming May 13 polls—were also included in the initial narco-list released by the President in 2016.
“I am not involved in any way in illegal drugs. I have been investigated and presented myself to higher authorities to clear my name and yet my name was still on the list. I am really puzzled and don’t know what to do with that now,” Palencia said in an interview with the Radio Mindanao Network.
Palencia said he had submitted various documents and clearances to the National Police Commission, and the PDEA in Manila.
In November 2016, joint anti-drug operatives raided the Palencia residence and farmhouse in Banga but did not find any illegal drugs.
He was, however, briefly detained after the raid supposedly found ammunition in the mayor’s cabinet and a rifle grenade in his farm.
Palencia said he has supported the anti-drug operations in his town and provided the local police with the necessary support, through the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Council.
“This is clearly politically motivated. But my constituents know me well. If they saw any bad thing that I did and if I had not served them well, they will not vote for me,” said Palencia, who was the only mayor in South Cotabato who ran under the PDP-Laban in the 2016 elections.
Palencia, who is now running under the Nationalist People’s Coalition, said he has no ill feeling and will continue to support the President.
“He just released what was fed to him by the authorities,” he said.
Matinong reiterated that he has already proven that he was not involved in any way in illegal drugs.
Matinong, who is seeking a second term, said he had also submitted documents concerned agencies, such as the PDEA, Napolcom, and the Philippine National Police to clear his name.
“I was surprised why my name again came up. I had been actually working to cleanse my town of illegal drugs,” he said in an interview over DXMC Bombo Radyo.
Malacañang on Friday told politicians on the narco-list to avail of legal remedies should they feel “injured” by its declassification.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the remark after Veloso swiftly denied having a hand in the proliferation of illegal drugs in his area.
Veloso maintained he has been cleared of drug allegations in the past by the PDEA and self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa.
In his speech Thursday, the President also called on the US Embassy in Manila to explain why they granted a visa to former Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who was included in the 2016 narco list, and was said to be in the United States.
Duterte said he gave the US embassy a list of suspected drug offenders, including Mabilog, to stop them from getting a visa.
“I’d like to inform the US Embassy. I thought I gave you a list. If this mayor was able to escape, I’d like to ask the embassy why did you give him [a visa]? You asked for a list and I gave it to your ambassador so Filipino addicts who would go there only to destroy your country will be denied visas,” Duterte said.
A spokesman for the President’s party, the PDP-Laban, said at least 10 of its members were on the narco-list. He told GMA News they were still validating the names with their own list.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, PDP-Laban president, vowed to expel members included in the list who could not explain why they were linked to illegal drugs.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said the DOJ will begin its probe of the narco-politicians as it receives the appropriate complaint or intelligence reports from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The DILG has already filed appropriate administrative and graft complaints against the 46 local government officials named in the narco-list before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“As soon as the DOJ receives the intel reports from the DILG/PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] or copies of the complaints filed with the OMB, we shall commence our own criminal investigation,” Guevarra said in a text message.
“In compliance with the requirements of due process, we shall likewise give these persons named in the narcolist ample opportunity to disprove the allegations against them,” Guevarra added.
The DOJ chief earlier said he would direct the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct the investigation once the list has been released.
Año said the list was evaluated and meticulously validated by the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs chaired by PDEA in coordination with the Philippine NationalPolice, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the DILG.
Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the authorities to move swiftly clear the names of those who are on the list without sufficient basis.
Pimentel said that cases should immediately be filed, regardless of whether the incumbent officials named were currently running for office.
“If you committed a crime, you should be charged immediately, regardless of whether you are running in the midterm elections or not. Running for office does not grant you immunity,” he said.
Pimentel said that he together with other PDP-Laban officials would go over the list to see if there were candidates who were members of the party.
“In the interest of fairness and due process, we’ll send formal notice to any member included in the list. He or she can opt to defend himself or herself against the allegations, or choose to voluntarily resign,” he said.
Reelectionist Senator Grace Poe said those named in the narco-list should answer the charges in court.
Senate President Vicente Sotto, meanwhile, said investigators should also name the celebrities who patronize drug pushers. With Rey E. Requejo, Macon Ramos-Araneta and PNA
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