Even as a Northern Samar congressman accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade denied the accusation, a transparency watchdog also warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs might be used by “interest groups” to get back at their political foes.
Rep. Edwin Ong of the 2nd District of Northern Samar, who was linked by communist rebels to drug trafficking along with his uncle, Northern Samar Gov. Jose Ong, on Sunday strongly denied the accusation, calling it “baseless, unfounded and simply meant to destroy our good name and unblemished reputation in the province.”
In a statement, Ong said the accusation by the National Democratic Front (NDF) against him and his uncle was rehashed, as he urged the NDF to show evidence of his alleged link to the illegal drug trade.
According to Filipino Alliance for Transparency and Empowerment (FATE) spokesperson Jo Perez, they have received reports that some members of the NDF have started to link local officials who have stopped or refused to pay revolutionary tax.
“It’s simply a case of extortion as the NDF has also resorted to implicating innocent officials,” Perez said.
“President Duterte’s camp should review the list it has and make sure that they have solid evidence to back their allegation. Otherwise, it could spiral out of control,” he added, noting that Duterte is set to name local officials involved in the illegal drugs trade.
At the same time, Rep. Ong reiterated his full support to President Duterte’s intensified anti-drug campaign. “We are one with the President in his fight against the drug menace,” he said.
“Luma na ang akusasyong ito na unang ibinato sa aming pamilya noong panahon ng kampanya kung saan nakalaban ng aking tiyuhin ang isang miyembro ng NDF sa pagka-gobernador ng lalawigan, (This rehashed accusation was first hurled against us during the election campaign where my uncle run for governor against a member of the NDF),” Ong said.
“Nais kong ipaalam na wala sa watchlist ng Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Armed Forces of the Philippines at maging Department of Interior and Local Government [DILG] ang aking pangalan, maging ng aking tiyuhin [My uncle and I are not on any watchlist], “ Ong declared.
“Bukas din kami sa anumang imbestigasyon upang patunayan na pawang kasinungalingan ang ibinabatong akusasyon laban sa aking pamilya. Buo ang aming tiwala na sa huli, katotohanan ang siyang mananaig, [We also welcome any investigation just to prove that the accusation is a blatant lie, as we are confident that eventually the truth will prevail]” Ong maintained.
Ong and his family have been in the steel and food business long before they decided to enter politics. This is his first term as congressman of the province’s second district while his uncle, Jose, won a second term as governor. He said the provincial government has scheduled a summit on August 17 to address the drug problem in the province.