PDEA: 12 Western Visayas pols on narcolist
ILOILO CITY — At least 12 politicians from Western Visayas, including incumbent officials, are on the list of suspected drug protectors, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
David Abraham Garcia, PDEA public information officer in the region, on Thursday said mayors, vice mayors and municipal councilors were among those on the list. Others are former officials who are seeking to return to office in midterm elections in May.
Garcia declined to name the politicians, but said none of those on the list was facing criminal complaints related to illegal drugs.
“They are subject to monitoring as protectors of illegal drug operations. But it is difficult to prove this [in a criminal complaint] because we need witnesses who will testify and link them directly to illegal drugs,” he told the Inquirer.
President Duterte has approved the release of the so-called narcolist on the recommendation of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año. Malacañang has said the list will be out next week.
Human rights advocates and groups oppose the decision, saying publishing the list will violate the rights of those named on it, specifically their right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.
They also say the list can be used against opposition candidates in May’s elections.
After coming to office in 2016, the President publicly named several local officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. Among them were officials from the Visayas—Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte province; Mayor Vicente Loot of Daanbantayan, Cebu province; and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City.
Espinosa was killed in an alleged shootout with police in his detention cell in November 2016, while Loot and his family survived a gun attack in May last year.
Mabilog has repeatedly denied Duterte’s allegations, but he and his family have not returned since traveling to Japan and Malaysia in August and September 2017.
The Ombudsman has removed Mabilog from office for graft, but no case related to illegal drugs has been brought against him more than two and a half years after Duterte publicly linked him to the narcotics trade.
Garcia said he did not know that the local officials under PDEA surveillance would be listed as narcopoliticians.
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