MANILA - (UPDATED) Fearing for their lives, an organization of town mayors on Wednesday said it has requested a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte over the assassination of several local officials, including some whom he had linked to the narcotics trade.
Mayor Antonio Halili, who was named in Duterte's list of officials with alleged drug links, was shot dead Monday during a town ceremony in broad daylight. He was the fourth mayor on the President's drug list to be gunned down since 2016.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) on Tuesday sent Malacañang a request to talk with Duterte and air their concerns over his narco-list, said the organization's president, Mayor Marie Fe Brondial of Socorro, Oriental Mindoro.
"Natatakot po kasi lalo ang ating mga mayor na nasa listahan... Nakakaawa rin sila, ang sabi nila, 'Mayor, hindi naman talaga kami kasali d'yan (drug trade), bakit kami napasama?'" Brondial told radio DZMM.
(Our mayors on the list have become more afraid. They are also pitiful, they said, 'Mayor, we are not involved with the drug trade, why were we included in the drug list?')
In a separate statement, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) also called on authorities to "review and properly validate" the alleged narco-list.
"The names on that list deserve to be heard and given due process the soonest possible time," the group said.
The LMP, which counts 68 municipalities among its members, will also ask Duterte to return the supervision of the police to mayors accused of dabbling with drugs, said Brondial.
Halili was among local officials stripped of police control due to a proliferation of illegal drugs in his city. He had denied any involvement in the narcotics trade.
A day after Halili's murder, motorcycle-borne gunmen shot dead Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija as he was leaving a government office. He was not linked to the drug trade.
Aside from Halili, mayors on the "narco-list" who were shot dead include Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte; Reynaldo "Aldong" Parojinog of Ozamiz City; and Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
"Kung sakali naman pong may maling nagawa ang ibang mayors, hindi naman po tamang patayin sila. Mayroon po tayong korte, Ombudsman, DILG na pwede natin sampahan ng reklamo laban sa mga maling mayor," said Brondial.
(If some mayors had indeed done something wrong, it's still not right to kill them. We have courts, the Ombudsman and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, where we can file complaints against erring mayors.)
The LCP, in its statement, also raised alarm over the killings of public officials.
"It is not in the culture of our nation to assassinate our leaders. We are for due process and respect for the rule of law," it said.
Duterte's anti-narcotics drive has seen some 4,200 people killed by police since July 2016, with another 2,500 suspected drug suspects killed by unknown assailants in the same period.
Human rights advocates said the victims were executed by the police, who have denied the accusations, saying most of the killings were done in self-defense. With a report from Reuters