THE US State Department report tagging Northern Mindanao as one of most affected areas by illegal drugs should send alarm bells to the public, which should vote for candidates who are not linked to illicit narcotics.

Controversial Bantay party-list Representative Jovito Palparan, Jr. gave this advice to Northern Mindanao voters, as he expressed concerns over drug situation in the region.

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Given the sheer size of their finances, politicians backed by drugs money are likely to win in the May polls, Palparan said.

It was not too late for the voting public, however, to assess their choices in the coming elections, said the party-list congressman, who said drugs will continue to become one of the country’s biggest problems “if the people continue to vote politicians with links to drugs.”

He also acknowledged the difficulties faced by authorities in fighting the drug menace.

“The problem is that we don’t have sufficient evidence that these politicians are using illicit narcotics funds, so lisod ang paggukod ani nila,” he said.

In its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Northern Mindanao was included alongside Cebu and Manila as the most affected areas by illegal drugs.

The report came over a month after this paper reported a Department of Education random drug test showing Northern Mindanao as having the most students with positive results of drug use.

For his part, Undersecretary Clarence Paul Oaminal of the Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) said narcotics funding elections was especially rampant in the local scene, but rarely among national political figures.

DDB and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency maintain a list of local politicans with suspected links to illegal drugs, he said. He was unable to name names, citing ongoing investigation and security protocol.

The involvement of local officials in illicit narcotics is classified into three different categoties, Oaminal said: When a local official is directly involve in illegal drugs; when a local official intervenes in behalf of the arrested suspects or raids conducted by PDEA; and when people close to a local official is involved in drug trafficking. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)