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Local execs on Duterte drug list: Shocked, confused, families in tears

President Rodrigo Duterte reveals the names of active and retired local government officials, members of the judiciary, and police and military personnel who are allegedly involved in illegal drug trade during his visit at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario (NSFA) in Panacan, Davao City on August 7. SIMEON CELI/PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte reveals the names of active and retired local government officials, members of the judiciary, and police and military personnel who are allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, during his visit at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario (NSFA) in Panacan, Davao City on August 7. SIMEON CELI/PPD

ILOILO CITY — Shocked, dumbfounded, hurt.

In so many words, local government officials and other individuals in the Visayas named by President Duterte as among those involved in illegal drugs denied the allegations and sought an investigation of the “unfortunate” and “disconcerting” charges to clear their names.

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Those named in the Visayas included at least eight incumbent mayors, a vice mayor, two former mayors, a former congressman and two former councilors.  Several judges, and policemen were also implicated

In Iloilo City, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog held a press conference at the City Hall Sunday morning seeking a “speedy investigation” to enable him to clear his name.  Mabilog later went to the Camp Martin Delgado, the regional police headquarters in Iloilo City to report to Chief Supt. Jose Gentiles, Western Visayas police director.

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Iloilo town mayors Alex Centena (Calinog), Salagunting Betita (Carles) and Mariano Malones Sr. (Maasin) said they were shocked to wake up to the news that they were among those named by the President as illegal drug protectors.

“I am willing to be investigated but it is painful because my name has already been stained,” Centena told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He admitted knowing Melvin Odicta, an Iloilo City-based businessman who has been tagged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as a drug lord, but the mayor said this was because Odicta came to his town in 2013 on plans to put up a restaurant in Calinog.

“My political rivals are using that against me,” Centena who has been in politics for 36 years, said.

Malones, 63, said he was awakened at 3 a.m. by a crying daughter.

“I thought something bad happened to a family member. I was shocked to learn that I was on the list,” he said.

He said claims on his alleged involvement in illegal drugs surfaced during the May elections but he ignored it because it was “untrue and ridiculous.”

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Betita, 67, said he would go to the national police headquarters in Camp Crame on Monday to seek information on how his name got into the list.

“What is the basis of this allegation? I have never been involved in illegal drugs,” Betita, a former vice mayor and now a first-term as mayor, said.

Former Guimaras representative JC Rahman Nava said his 85-year-old mother came to him early Sunday concerned that he was among those named by the President.

“How could this happen? Was there any validation? Is this a product of poor intelligence system or unverified raw data?” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Nava said he could have been included in the President’s list due to a 2014 controversy after a gun found in one of the quarters of convicted drug trafficker Peter Co at the New Bilibid Prison was found to be registered in his name.

He explained that he had his Walther PPK handgun repaired at a gunshop in Manila but only the damaged part of the gun was returned. The gun slide, which had the serial number was not returned.

Nava served three terms as governor and another three terms as representative of the lone district of Guimaras. His wife, Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava, took over his position.

The President also named Mayor Julius Pacificador of Hamtic town in Antique. Pacificador could not be reached through his mobile phone Sunday afternoon.

In Cebu City, former mayor Michael Rama said he was dumbfounded when he learned that he was among the drug coddlers named by the President.  “I’m very much saddened about what the President uttered. In my own view, it’s very much untrue. I am not a drug addict. The more I can’t be a pusher, worse a drug protector,” he said in a press conference at the Rama Compound in Cebu City past 10 a.m.

He was joined by acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella and about 30 barangay captains.

Rama, who was mayor from 2010 to 2016, lost to his arch nemises, Tomas Osmeña who won by more than 30,000 votes in the mayoral race.

Osmeña, a cancer survivor, is now in the United States for a medical check up.

Rama said he would present himself to an investigation to prove that he was never a drug coddler.

Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones of San Fernando town in Cebu immediately rushed to the local police station and claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity, adding that the President might have been referring to his brother Franz, who has been rumored to be involved in the drug trade.

Mayor Hector Ong of Laoang town in Northern Samar and his wife Madelaine, who also served as mayor, left for Manila hours after they learned that they were among those named by Mr. Duterte.

Text messages and calls by the INQUIRER to the mayor and his wife were unanswered.

But a close aide of the mayor said the President’s allegation was “absolutely shocking.”

The aide spoke to the INQUIRER on condition of anonymity for not having been authorized by the couple to speak on the issue.

The aide refuted the allegation that the Ong couple we involved in illegal drugs.

The Ongs are “very rich already” from their businesses, which include a gasoline station, commercial buildings for rent, copra- buying and a big hardware in Manila, according to the aide.

The Ong couple has been ruling Laoang since 1986 after Madelaine was named as its officer-in-charge after the 1986 EDSA People Power I revolt.

Madelaine, who is currently not holding any elective post, also served as governor of Northern Samar from 1998 to 2001.

During the May 9 elections, Hector replaced his wife as mayor of Laoang.

The Ong family is considered to be the most politically powerful in Northern Samar.

The chief of police of Calbayog City in Samar blamed a personal grudge with a former PDEA official and family of police officers for his inclusion in the list of of drug protectors.

Supt. Ibrahim Hamadi Jambiran, said he has been accused of causing the disappearance of Benhur Babol, a suspected “big-time” pusher in Zamboanga City.

“Hindi ko dudungisan ang pagkatao ko dahil lamang sa isang big time na tulak dahil alam ng mga taga Zamboanga ang pagkatao ko,” he said. (I will not smear my name for big-time drug pushing as the people of Zamboanga know my character.)  SFM

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