MANILA (UPDATE) - Several local politicians named in President Rodrigo Duterte's list of officials supposedly linked to illegal drugs denied Friday any involvement in the trade and maintained they were tagged because of politics.
Duterte released the list on Thursday, 2 months before the May elections. He read parts of it during a speech and said administrative cases have been filed against these politicians before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso said he will file cases against those who vetted the list for a supposed lapse in due process that led to the damage of his reputation.
"I have been unduly injured by this list and those responsible for the inclusion of my name in that list must be sued criminally, must be penalized criminally," Veloso told ANC's Early Edition.
"Itong nag-file sila ng complaint sa Ombudsman, it's a smokescreen para hindi sila ma-libel," he said.
(They filed a complaint before the Ombudsman as a smokescreen so that they would not be sued for libel.)
"We should have waited for probable cause ng Ombudsman. They did not wait for that so that is highly irregular, that is illegal," he said.
REELECTIONISTS TAGGED AS NARCOMAYORS
Several politicians seeking reelection who were named in the list blamed political rivals for their inclusion in the list released 2 weeks before the start of the campaign period for local posts.
Lucena City Mayor Roderick Alcala said House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez is probably behind his inclusion in the roster. He said the lawmaker threatened to release certain documents against him if he fails to make a broadcaster stop.
"Alam ko na on my part na sila ang behind dito. Ginagawan nila ng paraan para tayo ay ma-link dito. Isang malakas na puwersa dito sa lalawigan at ito ang ginagawa nila," he said.
(I know on my part that they are behind this, they found a way to link me to this. A powerful force in the province and this is what they did.)
Suarez has belied Alcala's allegation. "The allegation is irresponsible, I have nothing to do with it."
San Rafael Mayor Cipriano Violago Jr. of Bulacan said he has cooperated with all investigations since 2016 and said his political opponent used connections to besmirch his name in hopes of clinching his seat.
Subic Mayor Jefferson "Jay" Khonghun, who is running for vice governor in the May midterm elections, also said the allegation was perpetuated by his rival.
"Hindi na po namin kailangan gawin na magprotekta ng droga or maging drug lord dahil hindi naman po kami ganun kahirap," he said in a Facebook Live video.
(We don't need to coddle drug lords because we are not that poor.)
Camiling, Tarlac Mayor Erlon Clemente Agustin said he was surprised to see his name on the list as investigators have already cleared him from his alleged links to illegal drug groups in 2017.
He said he even allowed investigators to probe his personal bank accounts as well as his family's.
"Nagbibigay pa ako ng personal money ko sa PNP as reward pag may nahuli silang drug pusher," he said.
(I even use my personal money to reward the police when they apprehend a drug pusher.)
"Sabi nila ire-recommend sa Office of the President 'yung clearance for the adjudication. Ngayon hinihintay ko po 'yun, bigla na namang lumabas ito," he said.
(They told me they would recommend the clearance to the Office of the President for adjudication. I was waiting for that clearance when this list was suddenly released.)
El Nido, Palawan Mayor Nieves Rosento said most of the drug apprehensions in the island paradise are brought in by tourists and not peddled by locals.
"We have 45 islands. Ang El Nido ay isang tourism destination. Maliwanag na maraming dumadating from outside," she said.
(We have 45 islands. El Nido is a tourism destination. It is clear that many outsiders come here.)
Mayor Caesar Perez of Los Baños, Laguna suspects that an old political rival way back in 2007 is behind his inclusion in the narco-list.
"Hindi ko masyadong binigyang diin 'yan masyado kasi alam ko na hindi ako involved diyan at never in my life akong mai-involve diyan," Perez told ANC's "Dateline."
(I did not give much importance to that because I know that I am not involved and I would never be involved.)
"The person destroying me now is also a public knowledge in our town on what kind of person he is," he added.
Prior to the release of the narco-list, Perez said he tried to clear his name by submitting a position paper to the Palace and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said 46 officials are facing administrative charges of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, conduct unbecoming of a public officer, and gross neglect of duty.
Ten local officials from Calabarzon, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) were included in the list.
Five are from Western Visayas, four in Northern Mindanao, three each from Central Luzon and Soccsksargen, two each from Central Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula, and one each from Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, MIMAROPA, and CARAGA.