DAVAO CITY -- A former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) official said Monday that there are still no nacro-politicians identified in Davao as alleged by some reports, but admitted that five officials are already in their watchlist.

"Narco-politicians are those who are using drug money for the campaigns or using drug money as a key in a public office pero hindi pa naman tayo umabot sa ganyan," said former DDB chairman Vicente Sotto III.

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His statement came amid revelation by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Southern Mindanao Director Roybel Sanchez that the agency is looking into activities of two politicians in Davao Region who are suspected to be involved in illegal drug trade.

Sotto said there are thousands of mayors, vice mayors, councilors, barangay captains, and other politicians in the country and only one percent of those are in the watchlist.

"We do not want to get into that level, nasa stage lang naman tayo na they are attempting. I cannot say it's accurate na may dalawa dito, on my stint -- there are five government officials na nasa watchlist pero sa Armm (Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao)," Sotto said.

He decried the presidentiables who are demanding that the US State Department name names on the politicians believed to be using drug money on their campaigns following the release of the 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

Among others, the report noted that the number of drug cases in the Philippines has been brought down from six million in 2004 to just 1.7 million in 2009.

"While ethnic Chinese criminal organizations continue to dominate the upper echelons of drug-trafficking organizations in the Philippines, in their conversations with Embassy counterparts, PDEA, NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), and other law enforcement authorities have alleged that ethnic Muslim Filipinos are involved in street-level distribution operations. In addition, Philippine law enforcement officials have reported that some drug traffickers are affiliated with various insurgent groups for security and protection," the report said.

It also noted that the Philippines could be a source of methamphetamine for the East Asia and Oceania, including countries like Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. It said the Philippines is a primary source of methamphetamine for Guam and Hawaii.

The report further stated that "corruption poses a problem in Philippine law enforcement, due primarily to low pay and lack of training."

"However, law enforcement leadership takes the issue seriously and is attempting to address the problem. In 2009, there were 131 PNP (Philippine National Police) personnel who were dismissed from service and 151 PNP personnel who were criminally charged for not appearing as witnesses in court drug cases," the report said.

It also said that no senior official is engaged, encourages, or facilitates production or distribution of illegal drugs and other controlled substances.

But, it said: "Several active and former politicians and officials have been implicated in drug trafficking and money laundering, but have yet to be formally charged."

Sotto said this is the only entry that can be deemed negative about the Philippines, plus the statement in the second part of the report that covers money laundering and financial crimes, which states: "Although the Republic of the Philippines is not a regional financial center, the illegal drug trade in the Philippines has evolved into a billion dollar industry."

"It (Narco-politics) is a concern pero hindi naman sinabi na meron. Sine-sensationalize nila and they keep on telling the US department to name names of those politicians," Sotto said, adding that these presidentiables may pre-empt the ongoing investigation of the concerned units.

He said only the President of the Philippines, the DDB or PDEA, Anti-Money Laundering council, and Bureau of Internal Revenue that have the watchlist.

"Walang alam ang US and other agencies kaya 'di nila dapat e-jeopardize kasi hindi naman sila ang nag-iimbestiga," Sotto said.

The PDEA earlier validated reports on two politicians suspected to be involved in illegal drugs proliferation in Mindanao, saying two suspected "narco-politicians" are from the municipalities of Davao Region.

The agency said narco-politics has also been present in the 2004 and 2007 elections and is now aiming for higher political seats.

Alarmed by the reports, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it will seriously discuss the matter and the poll body’s strategy to regulate narco-politics “although the law penalizing this kind of act is weak.”

“We will discuss that (issue) in the en banc because of its serious implications on our electoral politics,” said Comelec Comissioner Rene Sarmiento last week.

For National Security Adviser and Acting Secretary Norberto Gonzales, the narco-politics allegations are very serious and should be verified.

He admitted that his office and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency had received previous reports about some congressmen, councilors and other local government officials being involved or having links with drug syndicates or drug lords.

He, however, said that no arrests have been made since such suspicions were difficult to prove.

“Narco-politics is a serious case. Our intelligent units will study that,” Gonzales said, adding that it is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ campaign on loose firearms and involvement of goons in politics. (RMH/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)