3 lawmakers hit narco-list

Rodrigo R. Duterte, Salvador Medialdea and Eduardo Año

THE three members of the House of Representatives who are on the list of narco-politicians have denied involvement in the drug trade.

Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court, vehemently rejected the allegations against him and said he is willing to resign if his accusers prove he is into drugs.

Outgoing Pangasinan Rep. Jesus Celeste on the other hand said he is considering filing charges against those responsible for linking him to drugs and branded the move politically-motivated.

Zambales Rep. Jeffrey Khonghun, another solon on the list, refused to issue a statement and instead said he is consulting his lawyer about what his move would be.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday issued the so-called narco-list of 46 local executives and members of Congress facing Drug charges according to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Veloso, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, pointed out that this issue always comes out during election period.

“That’s ridiculous, that’s politics … Every time there is an election, we are the drug lords here, I am linked (to the drug trade),” he said.

He challenged Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) head Director General Aaron Aquino to resign if they fail to prove his guilt.

“I challenge Albayalde, I challenge Aquino, and whoever was responsible for putting me in that list. If I am involved, magre-resign ako. On the other hand, if they cannot prove why they put me in that list dapat mag-resign din sila (they should also resign),” Veloso said.

Like Veloso, Celeste also decried their inclusion in the narco-list as politically-motivated.

“Sagutin ko ‘yung fi-nile nilang kaso sa akin. Kung may makita akong mali dun syempre magpa-file din kami ng kaso kung nakita namin may hindi magandang ginawa,” Celeste said in an interview.

Celeste is a member of the PDP- Laban.

For his part Khonghun refused to comment. His son, Subic town Mayor Jay Khonghun, who was also included in the alleged narco-politician list, denied the allegation in his Facebook Live video last Wednesday. In the video, he was with his partner, actress Aiko Melendez

“Hindi na po namin kailangan gawin na magprotekta ng droga or maging drug lord dahil hindi naman po kami ganun kahirap,” said the mayor.

Jay, who is running for Zambales vice governor, also insinuated that the allegations could be part of a smear campaign.

‘Desperate act’

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the so-called narco-list is a desperate act to save the fake drug war of the government. “The public-shaming that the government is resorting to is aimed to intimidate and control the local politicians in the coming elections. This is also a mere show of bravado to make the people believe that the war on drugs is working. It is not,” said Alejano, a member of the opposition.

Opposition Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte could be impeached, stressing his powers are not absolute when he released the list, adding it “is like putting the cart before the horse when ironically turning the wheels of justice and this act can be construed as a culpable violation of the Constitution.

“While the right to privacy is not absolute, there is no compelling reason for the state to violate it as we have a functioning court system where charges can be filed against these individuals. This could constitute an impeachable offense for culpable violation of the Constitution,” said Villarin.

“As President of the republic, Duterte’s powers are not absolute nor can he justify putting the state in order by infringing on an individual’s right to due process and presumption of innocence,” Villarin added.

With Ryan Ponce Pacpaco