BY ADRIAN STEWART CO and IME SORNITO
ILOILO City – Western Visayas officials linked to illegal drugs by President Rodrigo Duterte expressed confidence they could ably defend themselves before the Office of the Ombudsman where they have been charged on Thursday with grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross neglect of duty.
But Culasi, Antique vice mayor Ariel Alagos and Carles, Iloilo mayor Siegfredo Betita couldn’t help but suspect political rivals may be behind the drug allegations.
“I am really surprised that my name was included in the narco-list,” Alagos said in an interview yesterday. “Everyone here knows, except my political rivals, that I am not involved in the illegal drug trade.”
A candidate for mayor in the upcoming midterm elections, Alagos added, “Instead of subjecting me to this injustice, why don’t they file a criminal complaint against me if they have proof.”
While Alagos admitted that a younger brother was previously a subject of the police’s Oplan Tokhang, he was not in any way involved in illegal drugs whether as pusher, user or protector.
For his part, Betita dismissed as “old news” Thursday’s release of the “narco-list.” In August 2016 the President named him in the first list that the country’s Chief Executive released.
Betita said the people of Carles do not believe the allegation.
He also believed the President was fed with the wrong information by “most likely siguro ang pangontra eh.”
He declined to give names but said, “Basta kontra partido ah.”
Betita is seeking reelection. He said this latest accusation could even give him more sympathy votes this May 13 midterm elections.
He lamented that his family is suffering from the allegation being leveled against him but he vowed to answer it before the Ombudsman.
“Hopefully masanagan man sila kag siempre may due process man. Sabton ko ina,” said Betita.
Other Western Visayas officials named by Duterte on Thursday were Mayor Mariano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo and Mayor Julius Pacificador of Hamtic, Antique.
Former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was also mentioned.
While Pacificador could not be reached for comment as of this writing, Malones said he welcomed the Ombudsman charges as an opportunity to clear himself.
“Kon waay ebidensya, i-dismiss ina sang Ombudsman. So ako very positive nga indi ko involved. I’m not guilty,” said Malones.
Like Betita, Malones was also in the first narco-list that Duterte made public in August 2016, and like the Carles mayor, he was never charged despite that initial allegation.
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.
“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,” stressed the President./PN