Gov’t urged to pursue cases vs. ‘narco-politicians’ who won in polls

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MANILA — In the aftermath of the just concluded elections, several lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Thursday called on the government to “seriously” pursue cases against winning politicians, who were included on President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “narco list,” especially if there are sufficient evidence against them.

Representatives Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte), Alfredo Benitez (Negros Occidental); Mayo Almario (Davao Oriental); Winston Castelo (Quezon City), Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa City), and Bernadette Herrera Dy (Bagong Henerasyon Partylist) made the appeal in separate statements after it was reported that majority of those named on the narco list won in last Monday’s elections.

“The election victory of majority of politicians implicated in the drug trade through President Rodrigo Duterte’ so-called narco list must not stop government from pursuing their immediate ouster if evidence warrant,” Barbers said.

“Government should file charges already especially if the evidence at hand is overwhelming. If proven guilty, then the national government should not think twice in booting them out of office,” the chair of the House committee on dangerous drugs added.

This was echoed by Herrera-Dy, who said that winning narco-list politicians should be “stopped from retaining their position and from using their position of power” if they are indeed involved in illegal drug trade.

Meanwhile, Benitez, Almario and Biazon pointed out that sufficiency of evidence is basic in the filing of charges in court.

“If government has this in their hands, then cases should be filed immediately,” Benitez said.

“Charges were expected as soon as the list was announced before the elections. That would have been the best time to prosecute the alleged narco-politicians,” Biazon said.

“It is not enough for government to come up with a narco list. Presumably the list is based on thorough research and evaluation by the concerned agencies, and backed up by no less than the President,” Almario said.

Meanwhile, Castelo said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are “under obligation” to file criminal complaints if the evidence warrants.

“The DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) also must level charges against these people and file administrative cases as basis for suspension if evidence warrants,” Castelo said.

In the meantime, Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong said that if the government is really serious, it should file charges in the proper courts.

“That way the accused will be given a fair chance to defend himself,” Limkaichong said.

Alleged drug links

Several politicians in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao won in last Monday’s elections despite their alleged link to illegal drugs.

Only a handful of those included on the “narco-list club,” which was released at the start of the election campaign period for local government candidates, lost or have decided to drop out of the contest.

Among those who won were Zambales Rep. Jeffrey Khonghun and his son, Subic Mayor Jefferson Khonghun.

Poll results showed that Rep. Khonghun won against former Rep. Mitos Magsaysay for the congressional post; while Mayor Jefferson was also reelected by winning against Liberal Party candidate Ramon Lacbain.

Outgoing Pangasinan Rep. Jesus Celeste did not run but a member of the Celeste political clan from Bolinao is winning the congressional race.

Bolinao Mayor Arnold “Noli” Celeste has led his rival, former Metro Manila Development Authority General Manager Thomas Orbos in a tightly contested fight for representative of the 1st District of Pangasinan.

However, former Rep. Arthur Celeste, elder brother of Jesus, was defeated by reelectionist Gov. Amado Espino III.

In Cagayan, Mayor Marjorie Apil Salazar of Lasam town reportedly did not run. She was replaced by a relative, Juddy Salazar, who is losing to Vice Mayor Dandex Agatep in the mayoralty contest.

In Regions 1 and 3, the expected winners whose names were included on the Duterte narco list are Mayor Ferdinand Aguinaldo of Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte; Mayor Erlon Agustin of Camiling, Tarlac and Mayor Cirpriano Violago Jr. of San Rafael, Bulacan.

For Region 4-A and 4-B, Mayor Bruno Ramos’ name is not on the list of candidates vying for a vacant seat in Bay, Laguna. However, one Edwin Ramos, apparently a relative of Bruno, lost to rival, Jose Padrid for the mayoralty post.

Aside from the case of Ramos, all of the two regions’ narco-list politicians are expected to emerge victorious based on the latest counts.

Mayors Caesar Perez , Los Banos, Laguna; Raul Palino, Teresa, Rizal; mayoralty bet Dennis Hernandez of Rodriguez, Rizal; Loreto Amante of San Pablo City, Laguna; Mayor Roderick Alcala of Lucena City, Quezon; Mayor Eulalio Alilio of Lemery, Batangas are sure victors in their mayoralty bids.

Rizal Second District Board Member Rommel Cruz-Ayuson is expected to retain his seat.

Recent poll results also indicate that Rodriguez town Mayor Cecilio Hernandez is winning in his vice mayoralty bid.

Mayor Nieves Rosente of El Nido, Palawan denied any links to illegal drug trade after being named on Duterte’s list. However, her reelection bid suffered as she is being defeated by rival, Edna Lim.

In the meantime, two Western Visayas politicians implicated by Duterte won their mayoralty bids while two others were defeated.

Culasi, Antique Vice Mayor Ariel Tabugo Jr. and Mayor Mariano Malones Sr. of Maasin were defeated.

On the other hand, Mayor Julius Ronaldo Pacificador of Hamtic, Antique emerged victorious in the vice mayoralty race; so is Mayor Siegfriedo Alfuente Betita of Carles, Iloilo, who enjoys a slight edge over challenger Merle Tupas.

In Cebu, San Fernando, Cebu Vice Mayor Franz Sabalones was reported to have been killed in Quezon City last April 19; while alleged “narco-general” and Mayor Vicente Loot of Daanbantayan, Cebu did not join the mid-term elections.

In the Zamboanga Peninsula, incumbent Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte Mayor Gamar Ahay Janihim will retain his seat while Mayor Leonida Albor Angcap of Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur may not.

Oroquieta City Mayor Jason Paredes Almonte, one of those listed, is lagging in the congressional race in Misamis Occidental.

Incumbent Sinacaban Mayor Crisinciano Enot Mahilac did not run but his name was likewise on Duterte’s narco list. Mahilac and his family left for Singapore a week after being implicated in illegal drugs trade.

On the other hand, reports revealed that Mayor David M. Navarro of Clarin town, also in Misamis Occidental, has pulled away from his challenger Marissa Villa.

Oroquieta City, Sinacaban and Clarin are neighboring towns of Ozamis City, scene of the deadly drug raid staged by police operatives at dawn on July 30, 2017.

Killed during the police operation that resulted in an alleged shootout were Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife, Susan and five other persons.

Meanwhile, narco-list club member Mayor Roberto Luna Jr. of Lingig, Surigao del Sur is also in the victory column over Edgar Agdog in the mayoralty race.

In Region 12, South Cotabato Mayors Albert Palencia of Banga and Pablo Mondejar Matinong Jr. of Sto. Nino were able to skirt the narco tag and won their respective races.

However, Mayor Abubakar Pendatun Maulana of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat was not as lucky. He is far from winning a vice mayoralty seat and placed no. 4 in the contest. -PNA

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