BY ADRIAN STEWART CO and IAN PAUL CORDERO
MANILA – Five Western Visayas-based politicians – three from Iloilo and two from Antique – were in the government’s list of government officials with alleged links to illegal drugs. President Rodrigo Duterte read their names early last night during the National Peace and Order Council meeting in Davao City.
The five were Maasin, Iloilo’s Mayor Mariano Malones, Carles, Iloilo’s Mayor Siegfredo Betita, Hamtic, Antique’s Mayor Julius Ronald Pacificador, Culasi, Antique’s Vice Mayor Ariel Alagos Jr., and dismissed Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
According to President Duterte, his decision to release the list containing 46 names was “anchored on my trust in the government agencies that vetted and validated” it.
The agencies were the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine National Police, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
Malones, Betita, Pacificador, and Mabilog were also in the narco-list that Duterte read in August 2016. All denied having anything to do with illegal drugs.
In that first narco-list, Duterte also named Mayor Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo; Vice Mayor Francis Amboy of Maasin, Iloilo; and former congressman Rahman Nava of Guimaras. In this latest list, they were not mentioned by the President.
According to Duterte, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed administrative charges – for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross neglect of duty – before the Office of the Ombudsman early yesterday against the local officials in this latest narco-list.
“Remember that public office is a public trust, and a government official’s right to privacy is not absolute. There is a compelling reason to prioritize the interest of the state and the people,” he stressed.
In previous interviews, Malones and Betita vehemently denied being involved in illegal drugs either as user, pusher or protector.
Region IV-A (Calabarzon) has the most number of politicians named in the latest list with 10.
Region V (Bicol Region) and Region XI (Davao Region) have none.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the list’s release before the May 13 midterm elections should serve as guide to voters.
Commission on Elections chairperson Sheriff Abas, for his part, said the poll body cannot stop the release of the list but politicians listed won’t be disqualified from running.
The new list released to the public yesterday included 35 mayors, seven vice mayors, one provincial board member, and three members of the House of Representatives.
“While the vetting and validations were separately done by the concerned agencies, the process was coordinated and synchronized under the leadership of PDEA to ensure that all bases are covered and that no lapses will be made in the process,” said DILG undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya.
With the filing of charges at the Ombudsman, those in the narco-list now have the opportunity to refute or rebut the allegations, he said. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)