Saying the fight against illegal drugs cuts across all cities and provinces, Sen. Grace Poe on Tuesday continued Senate investigation of a brazen attempt by alleged members of a local drug syndicate to attack a radio station in Iloilo in central Philippines.
Poe, head of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, expressed hopes that the hearing will merit action from the national government.
“We want to show that the battle against drugs is not limited to one city or province,” she noted.
Provincial, city, and barangay (village) officials of Iloilo, officials from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, members of the media and the station manager of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo were invited to the hearing.
In November 2015, around 20 armed men stormed the premises of Aksyon Radyo.
Three of the men were identified from CCTV footage–Melvin Odicta Sr., the group’s leader; Melvin Odicta Jr., his son; and Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa, a barangay kagawad (village councilor) of Monica-Blumentritt.
The dubious release from prison of Odicta Sr. and Espinosa is also something that Poe wants investigated.
At the same time, the lawmaker called on authorities to protect members of the media from any threat or intimidation.
“The committee commends the brave cause of dyOK Aksyon Radyo Iloilo, all members of Panay News and other media entities for helping expose the drug syndicates in Iloilo,” Poe said.
She urged the Philippine National Police to safeguard the rights of the media even as she condemned those behind the continued attacks on the Fourth Estate.
“Yun ang nagdulot nga ng imbestigasyon na ito. Kasi pag mayroong banta sa kalayaan na maghayag, tapos nakita pa natin konektado sa droga, alam natin malalim-lalim talaga ang problema [Those attacks prompted this inquiry. If there is a threat to freedom of the press, and we see that it is connected to illegal drugs, we know that the problem is deeper than what it seems],” she added.
The probe was held in response to resolutions filed by Poe and Sen. Nancy Binay.
Poe said legislative action is necessary in terms of rewarding sources of information that will lead to the arrest of members of small- or big-time illegal drug syndicates.
Her committee is requesting statements of assets, liabilities and net worth; tax records; and motor vehicle registration of personalities suspected of being linked to the drug syndicate in Iloilo province.