PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has invited mayors linked to the illegal drug trade to a meeting in Malacañang today, Wednesday.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go confirmed this to The Manila Times on Tuesday.
Go, however, did not give details on the agenda of the scheduled meeting. “Yes. No idea what pag-uusapan,” Go told The Times in a text message when asked to confirm if all mayors were asked to go to Malacañang.
Duterte, in a speech in the Palace on Monday, said he wanted to confront mayors named in his final list of government officials involved in drugs, and warned them to resign and stop their drug trade.
“I will call the mayors, I will lock them in so it’s just us. I will really tell them, ‘The list I gave you is this thick. Look for your name there, mayor. If your name is there, son of a bitch, you have a problem,” he said.
“Either you resign or make a clean break of everything, come up with a clean nose and we’ll talk,” the President added.
In a news conference, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s statement against the “narco-mayors” was merely his “messaging style to underline his intentions.”
“It’s just meant to underline his seriousness in making sure that nobody is corrupt and involved in criminalities,” he added.
Duterte earlier said the drug list submitted to him by security forces contained the names of about 2,000 mayors, governors, congressmen and barangay (village) chairmen.
Duterte’s drug war has seen the arrest and subsequent killing by the police of the mayor of Albuera town in Leyte, Rolando Espinosa Sr.
About 50 government officials, including mayors, were linked to drugs in Duterte’s initial name-and-shame campaign in August last year. Many turned themselves in to the police but were later freed, as there were no cases against them.
Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte on Tuesday called on the President to name names.
“The President should name the people in his list [of officials involved in the drug trade]. Aside from mayors, vice mayors and vice governors could also be involved,” Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said.
“Besides, their constituents have the right to know if their leaders are involved with drugs,” he added.
Barbers also urged those guilty not to dismiss the President’s threat.
“They should heed the President’s call or they might suffer the consequences,” he said.
Barbers, however, said the list should be verified.
“The information should be verified, because politics could also play a factor here. The narco-list could also be used by politicians to smear each other,” Barbers added.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo warned Duterte against threatening to kill “narco-mayors,” saying that only courts could determine the guilt of and penalties for criminals.
“We caution the President in making such pronouncements. We believe in the rule of law and believe that only the courts can decide if mayors in the drug list are guilty or innocent. We hope the President was only exaggerating when he talked of killing mayors included in his drug list,” Robredo said.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI