BY RUBY P. SILUBRICO and GLENDA SOLOGASTOA
ILOILO City – The sister of slain drug lord Richard Prevendido was reelected barangay captain of Bakhaw that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) tagged a shabu haven in Mandurriao district.
Remia Prevendido Gregori was thankful to the people of Barangay Bakhaw “kay sa gihapon ara ang pagsalig nila sa akon bisan ano nga issue (because they continue to trust me despite the issues I faced).”
The Sangguniang Panlungsod previously investigated Gregori for alleged links to illegal drugs.
Barangay Captain Keith “Dabing” Espinosa of Monica Blumentritt in the City Proper also got reelected. Like Gregori, the Sangguniang Panlungsod investigated her, too, for alleged drug links.
“This victory is my answer to the issues hurled against me,” said Espinosa whose husband Jesus (popularly known by his nickname Jing-jing) was close to slain drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr.
Meanwhile, Barangay Kasingkasing, Molo district’s three-termer village chief Gemma Calzado – the lone barangay official in Western Visayas included in the “narco list” of PDEA – won as No. 1 barangay councilwoman in her area.
Calzado slamm’ed the PDEA list as “unfair.”
‘READY TO SERVE’
“Ako handa gid sa pagserbisyo (I’m always ready to serve by constituents),” declared Gregori whose fugitive brother Richard was killed in a shootout with policemen in Barangay Balabago, Jaro district on Sept. 1, 2017.
PDEA described Gregori’s Barangay Bakhaw as the go-to place of drug pushers and users but the barangay captain shrugged off the tag.
“Ari tawhay na di amon barangay. Dugay na (Our barangay has always been peaceful),” she insisted.
On Sept. 18, 2017 over two weeks after policemen killed her brother, Gregori voluntarily turned herself in to the police. Although she agreed to undergo police profiling, she denied involvement in illegal drugs and dismissed reports she gave protection to her brother.
‘PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN’
Espinosa defeated on Monday her challenger Frank “Antak” Espinosa, a grandfather of her husband Jing-jing and former village chief of Monica Blumentritt.
“The PDEA and police cleared me. Now the people of my barangay have spoken,” said Espinosa.
Espinosa and Gregori were not in the PDEA list containing the names of barangay officials involved in illegal drugs and made public two weeks ago before the May 14 barangay election.
“I thank the people of my barangay. They continue to support me even if my husband is not around,” said Espinosa.
Jing-jing, himself a drug suspect of the Iloilo City Police Office’s Police Station 1, is currently detained at the Iloilo District Jail in Barangay Nanga, Pototan, Iloilo serving an eight-year prison sentence as accomplice in a frustrated murder case 12 years ago.
In a recent interview, Jing-jing claimed their non-inclusion in PDEA’s drug list was the vindication they have long been seeking.
The complaint filed just this May 4 by five residents of Barangay Monica Blumentritt against the barangay captain appeared to have been ignored by the villagers. The five accused Espinosa of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty for the proliferation of illegal drugs in their area.
May last year as illegal drug allegations against her persisted, Barangay Captain Espinosa appeared at Police Station 1 and denied being involved in drug trafficking. This was seven months after the Oct. 2, 2016 raid of her house by the Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Group of the Police Regional Office 6.
The police seized seven sachets of shabu, a .45-caliber pistol, two spare magazines, and a licensed .9mm Glock pistol but Espinosa claimed these were “planted.”
According to Calzado, her win proved the people of Barangay Kasingkasing did not believe she was involved in illegal drugs.
“They continue to trust me because they know the truth,” she said.
Calzado believed political enemies implicated her to illegal drugs.
“I am not a native of Barangay Kasingkasing. I wasn’t born in my village but despite this, I won as No. 1 barangay kagawad then later as barangay captain for three terms,” said Calzado.
Her election successes may have courted the envy of others with political ambitions in Barangay Kasingkasing, she said.
“I have nothing to do with illegal drugs,” Calzado said in a previous interview. “How were they able to implicate me to illegal drugs? What’s their basis?”
According to PDEA regional director Wardley Getalla, however, the list was validated by other government agencies (Philippine National Police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines)./PN