MANILA - Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto has come to the defense of her vice-governor, Mark Leviste, after the latter's family was linked to the alleged entry of the Siniloa cartel in the Philippines.
Speaking to ANC's Beyond Politics, Recto said she was surprised and concerned that a shabu storage facility was discovered at the 100-hectare LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosloban, Lipa City.
Recto admitted the raid happened just two blocks away from her own house. She said Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago also has a home in LPL Estates.
"When we learned about it na may nahuli duon, na nagdala sa male maleta na...hindi yata shabu, cocaine. Pati kami nagulat paano nakapasok duon. Again, the thing is - hindi na namin alam ang detalye diyan but the point is - nahuli at ano man ang kalabasan ng kaso na yan, dapat naman may parusahan," Recto said in the interview.
"Siyempre, I got worried, not only because I am staying there, but because I am the governor of the province at kahit anong sabihin mo, responsibilidad ko yun. So tuloy tuloy naman ang pag re report sa akin ng aking [provincial director]...At the end of the day, pumapasok na ang national, ang SOCO. Sila na ang nangangasiwa," she added.
Recto confirmed that the vice-governor's father, Conrad, developed the ranch. However, she denied that the Leviste family is involved in illegal drugs.
"Hindi naman sila pwedeng i-judge ng ganun na lang. Maybe lugar nila yun pero kung iisipin ko, sa aking pagkakakilala sa pamilya ng mga Leviste, wala akong alam na nag-tolerate sila or they are into that kind of business or they tolerate ng ganun alam nating iligal. Wala silang record na ganyan. Maybe ang nangyari lang nadala sa lugar na iyon," she said.
"When it comes to the Leviste family, with all due respect, wala naman akong alam na may ganyan silang background. Nagkataon lang na nangyari sa bahay nila," she added.
The Levistes earlier denied any knowing that alleged members of a Mexican drug cartel were operating in their property.
"We are not our tenant's keeper. We do not and will never tolerate any and all illegal activities in our developments and properties," they said.
Authorities have warned that the Mexican drug cartel could be working with Chinese drug lords to strengthen its hold in the Philippines.
Drugs in Batangas
In the ANC interview, Recto wondered why the administrator of the ranch did not notice the illegal activity but said it is possible that the drugs were well-hidden
She also said the province has a port where goods come in and leave.
Recto confirmed that illegal drugs is a concern in her province but that the problem is not that bad. "Meron din pero compared to other provinces hindi naman ganun ka significant. Manageable pa din," she said.
She also denied tolerating illegal drugs in her province, saying that authorities are free to raid any facility suspected of housing narcotics.
"Kung tino-tolerate yan, inaalagaan yan, e hinuhuli din sila e," she said.
The governor also confirmed that a shabu laboratory was discovered in Barangay Sto. Niño in Lipa City when she was still mayor of the city. She said the case filed in connection with the drug laboratory is still pending.
Recto is in her third and last term as governor of Batangas.