NARCO-politics is alive in Northern Mindanao. 

Although protocols forbid him from naming names, newly-designated Director Edwin F. Layese of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Northern Mindanao said the existence of politicians with links to illegal drugs in the region is beyond doubt. 

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That comes as reiteration rather than a fresh disclosure as the same statement was made earlier by an official of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

 

Still, public officials and illegal drugs are a dangerous mix, said Layese, saying this presents the biggest challenge for the anti-drug agency. 

“There are politicians in this region who are either directly involved in drugs or linked to big-time drug lords,” he said. “The consolation is that law enforcers and the people in this part of the country are very cooperative in our advocacy to fight illegal drugs.” 

 

Then with the DDB, Lawyer Clarence Paul V. Oaminal on March said at least six politicians in Northern Mindanao have either direct or indirect links with the illegal drugs trade. 

Oaminal, removed from his post less than a month after he issued the statement, said that a local official can be said to have links with illegal drugs when: 

* the official is directly involve in illegal drugs; 

* when a local official intervenes in behalf of the arrested suspects or raids conducted by authorities;  

* when people close to a local official is involved in illegal drugs. 

Layese said he does not fear suffering Oaminal’s fate, saying his job was public in nature and therefore, nothing was personal. 

“We are in this job not for popularity’s sake. We also have families to protect (from illegal drugs),” he said.  

 

He also vowed transparency in PDEA’s operations, even offering the media to join them during actual raids. 

A DDB report earlier showed that out of Northern Mindanao’s 1,350 resolved drug cases in 2009, 362 or 27 percent resulted in the acquittal of the accused, compared to the national rate of 7.9 percent.

 

Twenty five percent or 333 drug cases, meanwhile, were dismissed by the courts, record from the DDB shows. 

In its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Northern Mindanao was named, alongside Cebu and Manila, as one of the most illegal drug-hit areas in the Philippines. (Nicole J. Managbanag)