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Leni, 2 senators: Drug raps vs Drilon, Roxas incredible

Runningmates Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo campaign last year.

MANILA, Philippines — Linking Liberal Party (LP) stalwarts Sen. Franklin Drilon and former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II to illegal drugs is “baseless,” Vice President and LP chair Leni Robredo said yesterday.

“I think there’s no need for me to defend them, because in the first place it is baseless,” Robredo said in an interview in San Fernando, Pampanga. “If they have a case against them then they should file it.”

Ricky Serenio, a confessed bagman of the so-called Berya drug cartel, claimed in an affidavit that Drilon and Roxas were protectors of slain suspected drug dealer Melvin Odicta Sr.

Almost immediately after Serenio’s revelation, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II declared Serenio’s affidavit could be treated as a complaint against Drilon and Roxas and that a preliminary investigation may now proceed.

Odicta and his wife were shot dead in August last year at the Caticlan Jetty Port in Aklan.

In a statement earlier, the LP said the Duterte administration was “going all-out to demonize” the party and “divert attention” from pressing issues like the entry into the Port of Manila through the Bureau of Customs of some P6.4 billion worth of shabu and the growing public outcry against extrajudicial killings.

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Reacting to Serenio’s affidavit, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he found it difficult to take the word of a member of a drug ring linking Drilon and Roxas to a rival group.

“For me, not only probably because I know Senators Drilon and Roxas too well, but also it is hard to believe the words of a rival drug lord of Odicta who can not anymore confirm or deny that statement,” Lacson said.

Roxas, for his part, said he expects Aguirre “to do his job and to do it properly and fairly.”

“Mabuti nga para magkaalaman na tungkol sa pangimbentong ito (This is good, now we can get to the bottom of these invented claims),” Roxas said.

“Note that the affidavits’ allegation is from a dubious source and based on double hearsay from a person who is already dead! It’s bizarre!” he added.                                                                                                                                           LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said that the fabricated allegations against his two colleagues were preposterous and meant to divert the attention of the people from the controversies hounding the administration.

He said the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China and the “everyday killings due to corrupt and abusive police” were just some of the issues that the administration has not addressed.

“If they really want to go after the mastermind behind the drug syndicates in the country, they should go after the people who snuck in the P6.4 billion worth of shabu in the BoC,” Pangilinan said.

‘Petmalu’ imagination

In a Facebook post, Roxas said he was shocked at the brazenness of his accuser to invent lies about him.

“Sabi nga ng mga kids ngayon, petmalu ng imagination (As kids say nowadays, incredible imagination)!” Roxas, who was Robredo’s runningmate and LP’s standard bearer in last year’s elections but lost to President Duterte, said.

He said he is busy helping farmers in Baguio City sell their produce and that the accusations of Serenio do not have basis.

“I don’t know nor have I any dealings with Serenio nor Odicta; as in zero,” he said in his post.

“I have been and am anti-illegal drugs and the record of arrests, confiscations and buy bust operations by the PNP (Philippine National Police) during my time at DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) will show this. Clearly a poor and laughable attempt at fake news,” Roxas added.

The former DILG chief said Serenio’s coming out with his accusations may have been arranged by some local people to “curry favor” with  Duterte during his visit to Negros last Saturday to attend the MassKara Festival.

Roxas said the people in Western Visayas know him and his family well and would never believe fabricated stories about him.

In his long years in public service, Roxas stressed no drug or corruption issues have tainted his reputation and that his critics apparently have to fabricate stories to destroy him.

Malacañang, meanwhile, dismissed insinuations it was behind Serenio’s linking Drilon and Roxas to the drug trade.

“The Liberal Party is afraid of its own ghosts after conducting several witch hunt investigations against their perceived political enemies when they were in power,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

He stressed that while President Duterte has been vocal against local politicians linked to the opposition, the Palace has never been involved in efforts to pin down Drilon and Roxas for alleged illegal activities.

“The administration has nothing to do with the testimony of a drug cartel bagman, Mr. Ricky Serenio, implicating Sen. Franklin Drilon and former secretary Mar Roxas to the illegal drug trade in the Visayas,” Abella said. – With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez

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