LP stalwarts slam ‘all-out’ squid tactics
Drug allegations against Liberal Party stalwarts Senator Franklin Drilon and former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II was the Duterte administration “going all-out to demonize” their party and “divert attention” from pressing issues, the opposition party said Thursday.
The party said the current problems confronting the country are the rising prices of goods, extrajudicial killings, and corruption, including drug smuggling at the Bureau of Customs.
Ricky Serenio, a confessed bagman of the Berya drug cartel earlier arrested by police, has implicated Drilon and Roxas in the illegal drug trade in the Visayas, saying they were the protectors of notorious slain drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr.
Odicta reportedly controlled the narcotics trade in Iloilo City, according to Serenio, in an affidavit he submitted to the La Carlota City prosecutor’s office in Negros Occidental last Oct. 18.
However, the LP said in a statement: “After efforts to link the party to destabilization, it is now being accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade solely because of a baseless testimony of a so-called bagman of a drug syndicate.”
“It appears this administration has the habit of manufacturing ‘witnesses’ who have questionable record and reputation, just like what it did to Senator Leila de Lima, who is now languishing in jail due to testimonies of convicted criminals serving jail sentences,” the party added.
This did not stop President Rodrigo Duterte from lashing out at another LP leader, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, by blaming him for the country’s problem on child criminality late Wednesday.
“You know, in this country, 15 below, they do not incur any criminal liability,” the President said during his speech at Malacañang before members of the Asean Law Association Governing Council.
“But if there is one single person who’s responsible for all of these criminality, when that law took effect, it is Senator Pangilinan,” Duterte added, despite calling the lawmaker his “friend.”
The Liberal Party, which ruled under former President Benigno Aquino III, also noted the P1,000 taken from the alleged P50-million bribe at the Bureau of Immigration involving brods of the Lex Talionis fraternity so that the case wouldn’t be classified as plunder.
“There seem to be incidents of “dagdag-bawas” of evidence at the Department of Justice, adding evidence for those considered as foes, and subtraction for friends,” the party noted.
Instead of swallowing the words of the so-called bagman and wasting time on this new controversy, the LP said the administration can better use its time investigating and finding the culprits behind the entry of P6.4-billion worth of the illegal drug “shabu” that slipped past the scrutiny of Customs officials.
Serenio had accused Drilon and Roxas of partnering with Odicta to control the illegal drug business in the Western Visayas, Panay and Negros islands by kicking out Berya Tolentino and the Camaria group from their dominance as local drug suppliers.
“Being in power with close association to the PNP, it was easy for the Roxas-Drilon tandem to paralyze, and eventually overthrow the Berya-Camaria drug operations and wipe out these groups from operating in Negros Island,” read Serenio’s affidavit furnished to the Department of Justice.
With the Berya-Camaria taken out of play, Serenio said Drilon and Roxas could “turn over” the drug operations in the region to Odicta.
“Indeed, the Negros market is bigger than in Panay or Iloilo, as confirmed in the declaration of President Duterte that the NIR [Negros Island Region] is No. 3 as the most drug affected in the country,” Serenio alleged.
Odicta and his wife Meriam were shot dead by unidentified assailants on Aug. 29, 2016 upon their arrival at the Caticlan Jetty Port in Aklan.
Serenio also claimed Drilon and Roxas were not only protectors of Odicta, but also patrons of Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who protected the illegal drug operations of the slain drug lord.
While the President did deny Pangilinan’s competence as a lawmaker, he said the law the senator had purportedly copied from the United States was “incomplete” and ineffective.
“They go abroad. They travel. Then they observe penitentiaries and maybe in the State of Washington not DC, Washington State, Seattle, or the Juvenile Offenders’ Law of New York. He copied the 15 year olds below, no criminal liability,” the President said.
Pangilinan, Duterte said, “did not provide for after the arrest mechanisms. He could have done it by making a law that would make everything compulsory.”
The President was apparently referring to Republic Act 9344, the original Pangilinan Law also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006. The law had already been amended through RA 10630 or the Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System, which was enacted in 2013.