MANILA - The surrender of Maasim, Sarangani Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. shows "how deeply entrenched" narco-politics is in the country, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Saturday.
“The raid by PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] operatives of the rest house of the Maasim Mayor, where P5 million worth of suspected shabu and a mini-shabu laboratory were seized, proves the administration’s claim that illegal drugs and corruption have captured local politics,” Abella said in a statement.
Lopez surrendered to Sen. Manny Pacquiao in General Santos City at noon Friday, hours after operatives armed with search warrants raided his house in Barangay Lumasal.
He denied involvement in the drug trade.
“We were able to confiscate a kilo of shabu worth P5-million, mayroon siya kasing parang mini drug laboratory. Mayroon din kaming nakuhang other paraphernalia, firearms and explosives,” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said in an interview Friday.
Aquino said Lopez is not in the president’s list of drug lords, but his name is under the PDEA watchlist. The agency has also received information that Lopez has been involved in the illegal drug trade since 2012.
“Siya kasi ang lider ng El Patrol Drug group. These are also supporters of the Ansar Al-Khalifa of the Philippines, ito 'yung sympathizers ng ISIS (Islamic State),” Aquino said.
Lopez is among several mayors linked to the drug trade, among them Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte, who was killed in a police operation in his detention cell in November, and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who was killed with 15 others in a raid in July.
Another local chief executive tagged in the drug trade, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, has left the country over security concerns even as he asserted he is not involved in the illicit trade.
During the raid on Lopez's house, operatives also recovered a green book that contains his alleged drug transactions with high-profile convict Herbert Colanggo and other politicians, including Espinosa and Parojinog.
He said several names of mayors and governors are included in the green book.
In August, President Rodrigo Duterte showed an updated version of his so-called “narco-list,” as he vowed to continue his campaign against illegal drugs.