Cover image via Philstar

They have 24 hours to surrender or be hunted down.

To stop what he described as a drug “pandemic,” President Duterte bared yesterday a list of 159 incumbent and former local executives and lawmakers, judges and uniformed personnel suspected to be involved in the illegal drug trade.

Police and other state forces securing many of the 159 were pulled out.

The President said he owed it to the Filipino people to release the names, noting that “my mouth does not have due process.”

Conceding that there must be a presumption of innocence, he told a press conference here early yesterday that the involvement of the 159 in the drug trade needs further validation.

“It might be true. It might not be true,” he said.

If those in the list would face administrative or criminal charges, “then they should have due process” under the Constitution, he said, promising, “I will give it to them.”

But he said “due process has nothing to do with my mouth.”

“There are no proceedings here, no lawyers,” he said. “I speak for the people so they will know the truth about our lives here in the Philippines. I’m the only President who is doing this.”

Eight members of the judiciary, 56 incumbent and former local officials composed mainly of mayors and lawmakers as well as 95 active and retired members of the police, military, jail and fire bureaus were included in Duterte’s list and were given 24 hours to surrender or they would be tracked down by security forces.

The President also ordered the pullout of police escorts of the listed mayors. He instructed policemen securing the local executives to return to their respective mother units or they would be dismissed from the service.

Duterte also directed the cancellation of the licenses of the mayors’ firearms as well as their authority to supervise the law enforcement units in their area.

Judges tagged in the narcotics trade were asked to report to the Supreme Court while policemen and soldiers in the list were instructed to report to their superiors.

“You do not do that, I will order the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the entire PNP (Philippine National Police) to hunt you,” Duterte said in a speech during the wake of four soldiers slain in a series of landmine attacks by the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley held at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao here.

Duterte said people in government involved in illegal drugs were to blame for the drug menace plaguing the country.

“There are things that are really reaching crisis (proportions) and it is not even epidemic. It’s pandemic,” the President said.

“It was really spreading like wildfire and I was scared for my country because I am a Filipino,” he added.

Duterte said there was nothing personal with his decision to reveal the names of people allegedly involved in illegal drugs and stressed that revealing the truth about the condition of the country was his sworn duty.

“If there is a rule, a law, either you enforce it or none at all,” the President said.

The President said he would soon come up with the list of prosecutors allegedly into the illegal drug trade as well.

He said these prosecutors were the ones who caused the dismissal, if not the dropping of charges against drug suspects.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said “there will be no sacred cows” as more names would be revealed once the extent of  their alleged involvement in the illegal trade was verified.

Duterte said the list was validated several times to make sure it was accurate.

Police, military move to follow Duterte

Upon the orders of Duterte, National Capital Regional Police Office director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde ordered relieved and disarmed the eight policemen named by the President as having links with the illegal drug trade.

They were Police Officer 2 Allan Carpio, PO3 Eric Lazo, PO3 Alex Macabeo, PO3 Johnny Mahilum, Senior Police Officer 1 Ernesto Billones, PO1 Vicente Celis, Chief Inspector Roberto Palisoc and SPO3 Gerry Mendoza.

Albayalde directed his five district directors to place the eight policemen under their custody pending investigation of their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Quezon City Police director Senior Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said two of the policemen – Lazo and Mahilum – had been actually relieved last month for suspected drug links.

Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel said Palisoc, who was identified as a member of the MPD-Station 7, had been relieved since Jan. 11, 2011 and reassigned to another district.

Navotas City chief of police Supt. Dante Novicio, on the other hand, denied there was a Chief Insp. Eric Buenaventura in their roster.

In Iloilo City, Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 spokesperson Supt. Gilbert Gorero said they were recalling the PNP officials and members named by Duterte.

In Zamboanga City, a police officer and four personnel were ordered to report to PRO 9 to face the allegations against them.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) relieved all the military personnel named by Duterte.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the AFP personnel would face administrative proceedings, including filing of charges and hearings after which a judgment would be rendered as part of due process.

Up to the judiciary

Andanar said the Palace was leaving it up to the Supreme Court to investigate the judges named by Duterte.

“One of them (in the entire list) called me up. But you know if there is a rule, a law, either you enforce it or none at all. But for friends, if I am not going to read your name because I know you, then the best that I could do for the country is resign… this one is not personal to me. We are not enemies (and) I don’t hold grudges against you. But I am now angry. You are in the list. Someday, we will meet again,” the President said in mixed Filipino and English before reading the list.

The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 transferred the administrative supervision of all courts and personnel from the Department of Justice to the SC.

As for the list, questions were raised on its veracity due to some perceived inaccuracies.

Three of the seven judges tagged by Duterte were no longer in the judiciary.

Judge Roberto Navidad of Calbayog City of Samar regional trial court is dead already.  He was killed while buying medicine at a drug store in their city in January of 2008.

The President also named Judge Mupas of Dasmariñas, Cavite RTC. He did not give the first name of the judge, but records showed that there was a Judge Lorinda Toledo-Mupas in the RTC who was dismissed by the SC from the judiciary in 2007 for gross ignorance of the law. Her husband, Judge Jesus Mupas is still active and assigned in Pasay RTC.

Another judge named by Duterte, Rene Gonzales of the Iloilo municipal trial court, has retired.

The high court has yet to issue a statement on the seven judges named by Duterte in the administration’s intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

“We are still verifying exactly what the President said and how he said it; assuming a statement is necessary it will be released formally,” SC spokesman Theodore Te said in a text message when sought for reaction.