MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday taunted drug-linked Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog, saying he seemed to have fled the country in an attempt to escape prosecution.
“Ang buang, lumayas na,” Duterte said of Mabilog in a speech during conferment ceremonies of the Gawad Career Executive Service and the 2017 Outstanding Workers in Malacañang.
The President had earlier tagged Mabilog as an alleged protector of the drug trade in the city, a claim that the mayor has denied.
Duterte said proof of Mabilog’s links to the drug trade was the latter’s house, which he said was even more grandiose than the Malacañang Palace.
Under fire from the President, Mabilog went abroad. His spokesperson, lawyer Mark Piad, had said the mayor went to Japan earlier this month on an official function and was supposed to proceed to Malaysia.
Piad then said Mabilog had to extend his leave to receive treatment for diabetes.
The lawyer said he does not know the family's whereabouts, but assured supporters that there was nothing to be afraid of regarding the mayor's health.
"He is abroad. He will undergo treatment. As a human being, he underwent stress and he has diabetes. Most probably, it was triggered by stress. He needs time for treatment," Piad said in an earlier interview.
Mabilog flew overseas amid constant criticism from the President for his supposed links to the illegal drug trade.
There had been talks that he would be the next alleged narco-politician to be killed after Duterte announced he was sending Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, a key enforcer of the anti-drug campaign, to lead the Iloilo City Police. The appointment, however, did not push through.
Espenido became controversial after mayors in the areas where he was assigned were killed in police raids.
Espenido was the chief of police in Albuera, Leyte when the town’s mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was arrested on drug charges and eventually killed during a police operation in his detention cell at Baybay City, Leyte in November 2016.
As Ozamiz City chief of police meanwhile, Espenido led a raid in July where Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife and 14 others ended up dead.
In his speech, Duterte again defended his drug war amid criticism that it was targeting the country's poor, saying the campaign is aimed at everyone involved in the illicit trade.
“Wala akong pakialam kung namatay ka penniless. Kung wala ka talagang pera, that’s not my problem. My problem is to… enforce the law,” the President said.
“The law does not say, ‘You excuse those who are poor.’ Place it on the law books and penal statutes and I will honor it. But for as long as I am enforcing what is expected of me and as a President of a Republic, when I say that I will enforce the law against everybody, and what is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose.”