FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd knew of the 23 mayors who protected illegal drug syndicates but the government lost the case filed against these officials, Dionisio Santiago, former director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), said on Monday.
Santiago, who also served as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Aquino and his executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa Jr., were given a list of local government officials linked to the illegal drug trade. Aquino named Ochoa as head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.
The same list is now in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte had said that he will name these mayors in due time.
“They [Aquino and Ochoa] knew these individuals. We provided them with the list like Amante, Alcala, Asistio, Ablan, Cuenca and Soon,” Santiago told The Manila Times at the sidelines of a news conference held at Aristocrat Restaurant in Manila.
He did not give the first names of the local officials, saying Duterte will identify them soon.
Santiago, who also headed the Bureau of Corrections that has jurisdiction over the New Bilibid Prisons and other national prison facilities, said his agency filed charges against some of the local officials but all the cases were dismissed either by the prosecutor or the judge.
“We simply lost the cases. After we were able to arrest their people who implicated them, we could not do anything when the case had been dumped,” he noted.
If these mayors were identified, charges would be filed against them first at the Department of Interior and Local Government. If they are found guilty, they can be dismissed from their posts and drug charges will be filed against them in court.
Santiago said a former head of the National Youth Commission is also a protector of illegal drug rings.
“We did not talk to this person when he went to Davao,” he added, without giving a hint as to the identity of the official. He also did not say if the person is still in government service.
To ensure that drug cases will be resolved quickly, Santiago proposed the creation of special drug courts.
He said the PDEA should be disbanded so that the task of going after people involved in illegal drugs will be the sole responsibility of the Philippine National Police.
“We copied this PDEA thing from the United States. In some countries like Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, only their police agenc[ies]are handling the anti-drug operations and they are successful,” Santiago added.
Duterte had identified five police generals who he claimed were involved in the illegal drug trade.
They are retired deputy director general Marcelo Garbo Jr., former National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao, former Quezon City Police District director Chief Supt. Edgardo Tinio, former Western Visayas police head Chief Supt. Bernardo Diaz and Vic Loot, who is now mayor of Daanbantayan, Cebu
Santiago said anti-drug operatives also suspect that the Chinese government may be behind the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
One proof, he added, is the fact that shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride is being imported from China and the chemists are solely Chinese.
“Ephedrine, one of the major chemical components of shabu, is imported from China,” Santiago said.
This was confirmed by Chief Inspector Kim Molitas, spokesman for the National Capital Region Police Office, who said that not a single Filipino chemist has been arrested.
“Only Chinese and Taiwanese chemists were arrested in various shabu laboratories,” she told reporters.
Santiago said the influx of shabu into the country could be attributed to the open border visa policy, lax officials at the Bureau of Customs and long coast line.
Molitas said 92 percent of barangay (villages) are facing serious problems on illegal drugs and the remaining eight percent are not totally free of such drugs.
In Metro Manila alone, from July 1 to 5, a total of 2,6921 drug addicts surrendered to the police.
Meanwhile, Dr. Benny Vicente of the National Center for Mental Health, said their clinic has helped 3,500 drug dependents.
Actor Rex Cortes, who admitted that he once was addicted to marijuana, said many show business people are into illegal drugs.
As to why the trail of drug money is difficult to trace, Max Edralin, a consultant at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said the Anti-Money Laundering Council has to ask the Court of Appeals every time a suspicious account has to be investigated.
Another problem, he added, is that banks are not honest enough to report the actual deposits of their clients, especially those who have P500,000 or more savings.