14 mayors under watch – DDB

In the face of the brewing political climate for the 2010 elections, law-enforcement agencies are surveilling 14 mayors included in a state watch list of people allegedly engaged in drug-related activities, according to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

PhilippinesDDB Chairperson Vicente Sotto III refused to name the 14 mayors but said seven of them are from Luzon, five from Mindanao, and two from the Visayas. There are a total of 120 city mayors and 1,514 municipal mayors in the country.

Sotto, however, quickly pointed out that these mayors are only a small portion of the unspecified total number of people included in the government watch list.

“The watch list also includes personalities who are not officials but are supposedly involved in drug activities,” Sotto said in a published report.

He said the list was based on intelligence information gathered by the government and concerned citizens.

Sotto said the list was submitted to President Arroyo, who ordered law enforcers and other agencies concerned to investigate these people with unexplained wealth and money.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Anti-Money Laundering Council are among the agencies under orders to do complementary investigations, he said.

Last July, the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court conviction for lifetime detention of a former town mayor in Quezon and his aide who were caught by law enforcers transporting 503 kilograms of shabu to Manila in 2001.

Records said the mayor and his aide were arrested on Oct. 13, 2001 by a joint police and National Bureau of Investigation team in a checkpoint in Barangay Kiloloran in Real, Quezon using an ambulance and a van that carried the contrabands.

The ambulance yielded 10 sacks of shabu, each sack containing 500 packs of the illegal substance. The van, driven by the mayor, yielded six sacks.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) described the case as a proof that narco-politics exists in the country. It warned the public to report politicians running in the 2010 elections using funds from drug lords.

TRAFFICKERS’ HAVEN

Meanwhile, last February, the US State Department said that illegal drugs remain a significant problem in the Philippines, citing the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) of 2009.

The US office said illegal drug usage is the fourth most pressing law-enforcement problem in the Philippines.

The DDB had earlier estimated 6.7-million illegal drug users in the country, but Sotto said the estimate was based on a “flawed” methodology, and the true figure was likely to be much larger. The DDB said it intends to conduct a more thorough survey in 2009.

The INCSR said the Philippines’ sparsely patrolled coastline across more than 7,000 islands makes it an “attractive narcotics source and transshipment country for traffickers, including terrorist and insurgent organizations”.

The INCSR report said based on drug seizures in 2008, the Philippines continues to be a producer and exporter of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) and marijuana.

It said the Philippines’ poorest regions, such as those in Mindanao, have the highest percentage of shabu abusers. www.tempo.com.ph

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