8 Central Luzon politicians tagged as drug trade protectors

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POLICE are investigating eight politicians in Central Luzon for their alleged links to the illegal drug trade.

Incoming Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino made the revelation in a press briefing late Tuesday in Pampanga.

Aquino, police regional director for Central Luzon, said the “narco-politicians” were five mayors, two congressmen and one vice governor based on the region’s police intelligence. He did not name them.

He said the police intelligence on the alleged narco-politicians was still pending verification and further investigation was needed.

The alleged narco-politicians in Central Luzon were brought up by Aquino after Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa talked about the reassignment of Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido to Iloilo from Ozamiz City.

Espenido and his team were part of police raids that led to the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. on Nov. 5, 2016 and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others on July 30, 2017.

On August 7, 2016, President Duterte named more than 150 politicians and police officials allegedly linked to illegal drug trade. The officials named were from local government units and the judiciary.

On August 3, 2017, he showed his “updated” drug list during a meeting with mining executives in Malacañang. He even named some of the local executives and police officials on the list in public television.

Lifestyle check

Also on Wednesday, President Duterte said he had ordered a lifestyle check on Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, whom he identified as a “narco-politician.”

In remarks during the oath-taking of new star-rank police officers in Malacañang, Duterte revealed that he discovered that Mabilog is living in a house similar to a “palace.”

He also confirmed that Mabilog sought a meeting with him after he announced the reassignment of Espenido to Iloilo City.

“Mabilog has sent word that he wants to talk to me. And I had some lifestyle check on him. His house is like a palace,” the President said.

“Sabi ko, anak siguro talaga ito ng mayamang mayaman. ‘Yung bahay niya talagang ipina-ano – ipinasilip ko sa mga NBI pati BIR, it’s really a palace (I said, he may be a son of wealthy people. I instructed the NBI and BIR to do a lifestyle check because he has a palace),” he added.

Mabilog, in a radio interview on Monday, said he wanted to talk to the President to personally present his track record.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mabilog denied that he lives in a palatial home as claimed by the President.
“I have nothing to hide. My house, while often described as a palace, is not quite a palace. It is not as big as pictures would make it appear. Last year I opened our doors to the local media for them to see the inside,” Mabilog said.

Source of wealth

The Iloilo mayor said his wealth came from his businesses prior to entering the government.

“Modesty aside, I and my wife were already running a number of businesses before I joined politics. I was already living a comfortable life in Manila as an entrepreneur when I came home to run for city councilor. I didn’t become rich because of politics, much unlike many politicians. My wife had to make huge sacrifices working in Canada for many years, while at the same time making wise investments that were reported in her income tax returns,” Mabilog said.

“Everybody dreams of building a beautiful home. Marivic and I built one not only for ourselves but for our children.
And I had hoped to plant seeds of inspiration among Ilonggos that through hard work, they, too, like Jed Mabilog, can achieve their dreams,” he added. “I just feel sad that what I had hoped to be a dream home has caused a nightmare experience for me and my family. But I can assure the President not a single centavo of dirty money was spent for this home.”

Mabilog is included in the drug list of the President for allegedly protecting drug syndicates, an accusation the mayor has repeatedly denied.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Duterte lamented that many politicians were either cowed or were protectors of drug lords and criminals.

“Some are even drug lords and criminals so they neither have the urgency nor possess the resolve to deal with the many evils affecting our society today,” he said.

The President said it was for this reason he looked to the PNP to provide leadership, ensure peace and order and uphold the rule of law.

“Despite the headway we already made against illegal drugs and criminality, our country is not yet safe from harm and danger. So remain vigilant. Stay alert and be ready,” he added.

with  CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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