Cebu News

Rama denies drug links; won’t surrender to Du30

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - While denying that he was involved in illegal drug trade, former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he will not surrender to President Rodrigo Duterte but instead he will "offer" himself to clear his name after being named as an alleged "narco-politician."

In a press conference he called yesterday, Rama said he will not surrender because it means he acknowledges committing an illegal act.

"When you talk about surrender, you have committed. But if you are being invited and kept yourself, you have to be there and talk with him, why will there be surrender? Surrender will only mean you have committed. But if you are mentioned and there is no conclusion and there is even a possibility it is a mistake, I will offer myself to visit whatever offices including the president. I am always at his beck and call," he told reporters.

Rama said he is willing to submit himself to any office or agency in the government to clear his name and be investigated.

He said he has been wanting to see the president because Team Rama, a local party that he founded, plans to join the party of the president.

"We have already decided all of us including the barangays that we will be joining the PDP-Laban that was already our covenant but first we need to see the president. But what I had been met is this saddening pronouncement," he said.

He said he was sleeping Sunday dawn when friends and family knocked on his door and informed him about being named by Duterte.

"In my own view, it is very much untrue but I wish, I don't know if the president was conclusive or there was such a thing as side comments as to having been identified with also a gentlemen in uniform Bong Santander being leveled as drug protector which I, jokingly being an addict, I have now been promoted to a protector," he said.

When asked why he could have been named, Rama said he was already implicated even before after being seen playing basketball with a certain "Tata Negro" several years ago.

"How could I be a protector when in the past years of being a mayor, two of my regional directors were removed? Four of my chief of police were removed. So how can I be protecting if there is such a protector when I do not have much control on the police? So, that leads further discussion," he said.

Rama said he wants to see the list read by the president and also wants to know the basis for including his name.

"I think the president knows our family. He may have just been into this document that's why I ask and I request, I want to see the document so that I can answer. Because I owe it to Filipino people and to the Cebuanos," he said.

Rama also expressed his dismay after learning that former intelligence officer Superintendent Romeo Santander was also included.

"The wicked flee but the innocent is as bold as a lion. That is the reason why I am here. I am very much ready an unafraid of the accusation," he said.

"Let the truth speak and that truth can always be there in the surface if we all believe in God. That is why to God be thy glory and us especially me. Klaro man ako pagtuo sa Ginoo. So ampo gihapon. Kay kining ampo wa'y kumo," he said.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said he was shocked and saddened after learning the report.

"Of course, I am deeply saddened. I've known the mayor and his family to be God-fearing, God-loving and law abiding citizens. But anyway as what the president said that he just read the list given to him and he will just revalidate it. There was a mention in a statement 'I could be wrong.' So it was just given to him. That list could come from anyone," he said.

Association of Barangay Councils President Phillip Zafra said he was also shocked.

Zafra and other barangay captains went to Rama's house in Barangay Basak-San Nicolas to express their continued support despite the accusations. Zafra vowed to continue the fight against illegal drugs in cooperation with the Cebu City Police Office.

Lawyer Mikel Rama, son of the former mayor, said they want to see the documents read by the president, adding they will take legal action against those behind the list.

San Fernando Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones denied the allegations he is involved in illegal drugs, saying he has never been charged of any crime or faced a civil case.

He said it may be a case of mistaken identity and Duterte may have been referring to his brother Franz Sabalones, who is the one that is rumored to be involved in illegal drugs, and that the media mistook the name for his.

Mayors deny drugs links

A few hours after the new broke out tagging him as a drug protector, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was visited by his chief of police, Senior Superintendent Remus Zacharias Canieso, who told him that the PNP will be recalling all 21 security personnel assigned to him. Nine were personally detailed to the mayor while the 12 are motorcycle cops who do shifting duties.

Around 9 a.m., Mabilog, flanked by his supporters and advisers, held a press conference at his office at the Iloilo City Hall where he denied any involvement in the protection, trade, and use of illegal drugs.

"Mr. President, rest assured that I and my administration and the people of Iloilo City are in full support of your programs, most especially against illegal drugs," he added.

Mabilog was dragged into the illegal drugs controversy after several quarters tagged him to have links to alleged Iloilo City drug personality Melvin Odicta Sr. and the latter's alleged right-hand man, barangay councilman Jesus "Jing-Jing" Espinosa.

After the press conference, Mabilog appeared before Chief Superintendent Jose Gentiles, Western Visayas police chief. Aside from Mabilog, Mayor Mariano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo, and former Iloilo City Councilor Erwin "Tongtong" Plagata also appeared before Gentiles. All of them categorically denied involvement in the drug trade.

Mayor Beda Cañamaque of Basay, Negros Oriental also appeared before Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office provincial director Senior Superintendent Nestor Tiempo to clear his name and requested Duterte for a reinvestigation and revalidation of the list.

Cañamaque believes he has was just caught between two political giants for enforcing the anti-drug campaign.

Police links

Police Chief Insp. Ibrahim Jambiran, who is currently chief of police of Calbayog City, Samar, said he will report Malacañang within "24 hours" to clear his name which appears in the list.

The FREEMAN tried to contact Superintendent Romeo Santander, but he could not be reached through his contact number.

Police officers Michael Cortez and Onel Nabua of the Barili Police Station were also not available for comment. Police Officer 2 Gilbert Encabo, desk officer of the Barili Police Station, said Nabua is not assigned in Barili while Cortez was on day-off.

The Carbon Police Station and the Lapu-Lapu City Police Station likewise could not provide the whereabouts of police officers Jen Dela Victoria and Jomar Ybañez, respectively, as they are no longer assigned in the said stations. — Jean Marvette A. Demecillo, Iris Mariani B. Algabre, Lalaine M. Jimenea, Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros, Jennifer P. Rendon, Juancho R. Gallarde, Michael Vencynth Braga, and Rowena Capistrano (FREEMAN)

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