Iloilo’s ‘narco-politicians’ deny drug involvement
By Gail Momblan
ILOILO CITY (Philippines News Agency) — Two municipal mayors in Iloilo province, who were named by President Rodrigo Duterte as among 46 politicians with alleged links to illegal drugs, have come out with separate denials.
Mayors Siegfredo Betita of Carles and Mariano Malones of Maasin were among the 46 names read out by Duterte during the National Peace and Order Council meeting in Davao City on Thursday evening.
In a phone interview on Friday, Betita said linking him to illegal drugs is an “old issue”, which is why he is confident that his constituents in Carles will not believe allegations of involvement in drugs against him.
“I don’t have any involvement with illegal drugs. In the past, there was an intelligence groups that monitored me but they saw nothing because I am not involved in illegal drugs,” he said.
He said he already expected to be included because “my name wasn’t erased in Malacañang”.
Because, the election period is here, Betita said his inclusion on the list might also be politically-motivated.
Betita filed his re-election bid for mayor under the Nacionalista Party (NP).
“We do not know (who submitted the name to the President). We cannot pinpoint but most likely it’s from the opposing party,” he said.
He added that being on the narco-list might gain the “sympathy of the people of Carles because they know that I am not involved in illegal drugs.”
Moreover, he respected the authority of the President saying that “he only reads what is forwarded to him.”
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine National Police, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency are the agencies that validated the names on the narco-list.
“I will continue to serve my duty as mayor and I will always help with the programs of President against illegal drugs. I have full support to the PNP,” he assured, adding that as mayor, he also has programs against illegal drugs.
Mayor Malones, for his part, expressed his gratitude that his name was called because it only proves that “the validations had been released.”
“For my interpretation, the President called our names because they were already been validated. We submitted already ourselves for validations and the names had been released,” he said in a phone interview.
“They will submit it to Malacañang and to the Ombudsman to file the case against us and if there is not enough evidence, the Ombudsman will dismiss (the case),” he added, assuring that he is not involved in any illegal drug activity.
Malones thanked the President that his name was called earlier so that he can prove that he is not guilty.
“I guarantee that I am not involved in the issue,” said Malones, who is running for the vice mayor seat.
Malones and Betita said they are ready to answer the case against them.
In 2016, Malones and Betita were also included on the narco-list that was read by the President.
Mayor Alex Centena of Calinog town and Maasin Vice Mayor Francis Amboy, whose name were called in 2016, were not included on the latest list.
“They should be worried because that only means that their validation undergoes a long and meticulous process,” Malones said, referring mainly to Amboy.
Centena, on the other hand, was relieved that he was not anymore included on the narco-list.
“At least, the personal pain that I felt and that were felt by my family and supporters is now gone. I thank everyone for the support and for those who helped in clearing my name that I am not a drug protector,” said Centena, who is seeking his town’s vice-mayoral seat, in a phone interview. (PNA)