THE anti-graft office has placed Ermita, Cebu City barangay captain Felicisimo “Emok” Rupinta and seven councilors under preventive suspension for six months after they allegedly failed to cooperate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during a drug raid last November 6.

Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente signed the order last Monday, January 16.

The suspended councilors are Marky Rizaldy Miral, Antonieto Flores, Ryan Jay Rosas, Alio Tamundo, Domingo Ando, Maria Bianghug and Wilbert Flores.

PDEA-Central Visayas Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz, the complainant, welcomed the Ombudsman's decision, saying it should serve as a “wake-up call” to village officials who are not serious in the drive against drugs.

Ruiz denied the filing of charges against the Ermita officials was politically motivated.

“I am not a politician,” he said.

The PDEA Central Visayas director filed the case against the barangay officials, citing that under the Local Government Code of 1991, Rupinta, as barangay captain, and the councilors have the duty to act as law enforcement and peace officers in the maintenance of public order and safety within their area of responsibility in the community.

Ruiz said the PDEA-Central Visayas operatives waited for two hours, but no elected public official from the village arrived to assist the anti-narcotics team that raided the drug dens allegedly operated by Richard "Tata" Canete and Josephine Cuyno Canete at Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita, last November 6, 2016.

READ: 13 nabbed in Ermita drug raid

The barangay hall was located just 500 meters away from the area of operation, according to the suspension order.

"There is, therefore, a preliminary showing that respondent barangay officials were willfully indifferent to the illegal drug trade operating within their own area of responsibility some 500 meters away from their office, palpably disregarding and flagrantly breaching their own duty as law enforcement agents to enforce the anti-drugs law in their area of responsibility or to even, at the very least, assist PDEA-7 in its anti-drug operations by standing in as witnesses in the conduct of PDEA-7 of physical inventory of the seized and confiscated illicit drug and paraphernalia," stated the order.

"Considering that the evidence of guilt is strong, and the charge involved gross neglect in the performance of duty and grave misconduct, or one that would warrant removal from the service, there are factual and legal bases to place the respondents under prevention suspension for six months," it added. (KAL of SunStar Cebu/SunStar Philippines)