The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) validated yesterday the involvement of 96 politicians, including congressmen, in the narcotics trade to backstop President Duterte’s warning that “drug money” will play a role in the midterm elections next year.
Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the list of narco politicians should be bared to the public.
In an interview during yesterday’s Senate hearing on the proposed DILG budget next year, Año said he wanted the names of the political personalities to be revealed to caution voters.
“For local government officials, including some congressmen, there are 96 all in all,” admitted Año.
Asked if there are senators among the 96 politicians, Año replied, “There is none.”
The DILG chief said he had no doubt about the involvement of the 96 politicians, citing the vetting process by four government agencies in charge of checking on the “narco list.”
“I am inclined to believe that there are bases why their names are listed in the narco list,” Año said.
“Personally, I am recommending the release of this list… We want our people to be informed about the kind of people they are voting for. We are very serious in good governance. We should vote for those who have no issue, no information about their involvement into drugs not even reports,” he added.
Follow PDP example
At the same time, Año urged political parties to follow the example of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), which vowed not to accept members who are suspected of being involved in illegal drugs.
“Hopefully, other political parties will follow what PDP is doing… there are so many other individuals who are capable to become candidates,” Año said.
Last week, the President warned that “drug money” may play a factor in the May 2019 midterm elections, citing the involvement of politicians in the illegal drug trade.
Mr. Duterte’s concern was shared by at least two lawmakers, Senators Richard Gordon and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Currently, opposition Sen. Leila de Lima is the most ranking elected official detained in connection with drug-related charges.
De Lima is accused of receiving “drug money” from convicted drug lords during her time as Justice secretary to prop up her 2016 senatorial bid.
Several mayors had been killed since the President ordered an all-out campaign against illegal drugs, namely, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili.
Not fit for WPP
At the ongoing investigation of the House of Representatives regarding the billions of pesos of shabu smuggled into the country, Committee on Dangerous Drugs chairman Robert “Ace” Barbers doubted resigned Customs Intelligence Officer Jimmy Guban can qualify for the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice.
“In my opinion, I will not even enrol him in the WPP because it seems that he has not given any significant information yet,” Barbers said.
Barbers questioned if Guban is already qualified to become a state witness under the WPP as he was not aware of a case filed against the former intelligence officer.
“You can only be a qualified state witness if there’s a case filed against you. Right now, because there’s no case yet, I don’t know the propriety of him being in the WPP,” he added.
The lawmaker said that he will consult “legal luminaries” in the House and in the Legal department if the Dangerous Drugs Committee could still enforce the contempt order against Guban.
“We even mentioned in the last hearing that, after the detention order is lifted in the Senate, Jimmy Guban will enjoy an extended ‘staycation’ at the House of Representatives. That’s what we said because the committee has ruled and cited him for contempt for non-cooperation and refusal to answer questions coming from committee members. So, we will still enforce that,” Barbers said.
On the other hand, Barbers said that he will still confer with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as the current status of the hearing is still unclear.
Barbers explained the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has terminated their inquiry on shabu smuggling, which is not the case at the House.
He said that the panel has sent invitations for the continuation of the House inquiry and they are working on issuing subpoenas to Guban and other personalities named during the hearing, such as dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director General for Administration Ismael Fajardo and Bureau of Customs broker Karina Grace Cuasay.
“Connivance is very clear among the three big government agencies tasked to fight drugs.
Who are these? PDEA, Philippine National Police (PNP) and Bureau of Customs. PDEA because, allegedly, the involved (person) here is the second highest officer of PDEA, the deputy director general. While in PNP, it will be Col. Eduardo Acierto who was the head of the anti-drugs unit of the Philippine National Police in the past. So, that’s what was established,” Barbers said.
With Hananeel Bordey