METRO Manila mayors are next in line in the shame campaign being waged by the Duterte administration to weed out protectors of illegal drug traders.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno made the announcement as 35 policemen and 27 politicians on President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of “narco-officials” turned up at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame to issue denials.
Sueno told radio station DZMM on Monday the government was in the process of building airtight cases against some Metro mayors when he was asked why Duterte’s list did not contain names of local government officials in the National Capital Region.
“When it comes to Metro Manila, we need to validate and re-validate information, we’re really gathering evidence against them,” he said in Filipino.
Sueno added that he was sure another list will be made public soon but did not give a timeframe.
Robert “Bobby” Eusebio, the mayor of Pasig City which made the headlines following the raid of a large drug den dubbed “shabu tiangge” in 2006, jumped the gun and denied any involvement in illegal drugs.
“That’s an urban legend. There’s no truth about that. I have been waging a relentless fight against illegal drugs in our city for the past years,” Eusebio told reporters.
Cebu No. 2 surrenders
Sueno promised a “swift yet fair” investigation to all local officials linked to the illegal drug trade.
The PNP chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa, also said “due process” will be given to those on the President’s list, as he received 35 PNP personnel and 27 local officials in Camp Crame.
De la Rosa cursed at and threatened to kill the police officers if they return to their alleged illegal activities.
“The mere fact that their names were mentioned on the list, whether or not the allegations are true, makes me furious because this would destroy the police organization,” he told reporters.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will handle the investigation of local officials, while the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management will handle the probe of all police personnel, PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos said.
Carlos said all incumbent local officials named by the President had been stripped of authority to exercise direct supervision and control over local police forces.
All active PNP personnel on the list were directed to turn over their firearms and were told not to leave IAS jurisdiction until the investigation into their drug links is finished.
De la Rosa also received Cebu’s second most wanted drug suspect, Franz Sabalones, who admitted to having assumed control of Cebu’s drug trade after the death of drug kingpin Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz during an encounter with police in June.
Asked why he surrendered to the PNP, Sabalones said: “I want to change.”
The alleged drug bigwig was accompanied by his brother, Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones of San Fernando, Cebu.
Duterte on Sunday accused the vice mayor and more than 150 other individuals of being involved in the drug trade.
But the local official claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity, saying the President may have been referring to his older brother, Franz.
More mayors named by Duterte last Sunday came forward to deny links to illegal drug syndicates.
In Iloilo City, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog called for a speedy probe, saying his life was in danger.
“I can categorically say that I am not involved in the protection, trade and use of illegal drugs. I am willing to open myself to any investigation, cooperate and submit myself to any court of law,” Mabilog said.
“It is only fair that since my name has been called out, that I be accorded with a speedy investigation,” he added.
Laoang, Northern Samar mayor Hector Ong and his wife, former mayor Madeleine Ong, decried being tagged as “narco-politicians.”
“I will clear my name because the President himself has assured us that we will be given due process. But clearly, I categorically deny that we are narco-politicians. We are public servants,” the mayor said.
The Ongs, who were said to have been cleared by police officials and even communist leaders in the province, plan to go to Camp Crame to issue a statement.
Former San Pablo City, Laguna mayor Vicente Amante also insisted that he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“I am placing my hopes on the personal validation that he (President Duterte) plans to do,” he said in a statement.