Lawmaker to sue those who put his name in narco list

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Leyte Representative Vicente Veloso (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — A Leyte politician included in the recent narco list said on Friday he would sue those who put his name in the tally.

President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned Representative Vicente Veloso's name Thursday night, in what the President called a "somewhat validated" narco list.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Newsroom Ngayon, Veloso said he learned about the list Thursday and saw it as a "good opportunity" because he would be able to present his side.

"Puro ito [This is all] hearsay," said Veloso.

Veloso said he asked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Eastern Visayas Director Edgar Jubay if he was included in the list during a congressional hearing two months ago.

"Sinabi niya wala [He said I wasn't]. Do you think I am a narco politician? Sabi niya, imposible in a sense, parang ganoon, because siya na mismo nagsabi na nakikinig doon that I have been working with PDEA in my personal anti-illegal drug crusade," Veloso said.

Veloso said he would determine who included his name in the list.

"Itong pagiging protector ko ni Querubin, ito naman yung lumalabas na rason, that has already been settled 2016," he said.

[Translation: My supposedly being a protector of Querubin, this seems to be the reason, that has already been settled in 2016.]

Apart from this, Veloso said he would sue those responsible.

"I owe it to my family, I owe it to my father whom I assured I would protect his name," he said.

He also sent a message to those responsible, "Don't use the President as a bullet-proof vest."

In a statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said as soon as his department receives the intelligence reports of the Interior Department and the PDEA "or copies of the complaints filed with the OMB (Ombudsman), we shall commence our own criminal investigation."

Suspension, expulsion

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source Friday, House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said congressmen included in the list may be suspended or expelled if a probe by the ethics committee proves the allegations true.

However, he admitted that there is no more time for them to conclude a probe as Congress would only be in session for three weeks after it returns to work after the May elections.

"We can start, but I don't think we will be finishing before the next Congress is organized," he said.

Under House rules, the chamber may suspend or expel an erring lawmaker with the concurrence of two-thirds of its members. A suspension will only last for up to 60 days.

Reactions abound

Politicians as well as other groups and individuals were quick to respond to the recent narco list.

Former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who is running for vice mayor under the Duterte's political party PDP-Laban, said his previous statement denying ay involvement in illegal drugs has been validated.

"The truth is out. As I've said before, I am not a drug protector nor am I a drug addict. Let us move forward and focus on working together in solving the city's problems," he said Friday.

However, Rama's reaction was not shared by the wife of dismissed Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog.

Marivic Mabilog criticized the list and the President, saying on a post on social media, "If your latest narco list is truly validated, why don't you furnish the media the validated list and the sources of your data, properly validated by the reporting agencies?"

She also compared her husband to the President.

"While Jed was working hard for the eradication of the drug menace and getting results, Digong was hardly working in Davao. While Iloilo was cited as the third least drug-infected city, Davao had one of the worst record in drug trade and use in the country," Mabilog said.

No cases were brought against her husband, she said, because they couldn't pin anything on him.

"You think by continually shaming him and lying about him will do him damage. But Jed's shield and armour are the truths you refuse to acknowledge, she said."

In an ambush interview Friday, Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch Duterte critic, said she hopes the list was accurate and that no one innocent was included.

"Sana wala kahit isa diyan na falsely accused na katulad ko," she said.

[Translation: I hope not one person in it is falsely accused like I was.]

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, called the list an "outrageous attempt to influence local elections in May."

A statement from the group said it was also a "veritable hit list" and denies the accused of involvement due process as well as the presumption of innocence.

"If the government really has evidence against them, they should be arrested, charged and tried, not be the target of administrative cases by an agency — the interior department — that is under the Office of the President. This weaponizing of the 'drug war' against politicians further undermines the rule of law, democracy and civil liberties in the Philippines," it said.