Palma urges local politicians to be law abiding
THE most influential and highest official of the Roman Catholic Church in Cebu on Sunday reminded public officials, particularly those in the barangay level, to abide by the rules of the land, and simply follow the mandates laid out for them as elected officials in the government.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he was saddened by the recent series of arrests of village officials caught illegally possessing firearms and drugs as they were supposed to set an example to their constituents by not violating the laws and by performing their sworn duties to ensure peace in their communities and the safety of their constituents.
“All officers, especially barangay officials, they have the mandate on making sure there is no proliferation of illegal drugs within their (jurisdiction),” Palma told reporters following the Mass he officiated at the gymnasium of the University of San Carlos–Downtown Campus that was sponsored by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).
He also renewed his calls for every sector in the community – the government, church, and private individuals – to continue the collaboration on cleansing their areas of the illegal drug menace and other crimes without resorting to extrajudicial killing (EJK).
“We should cooperate. We know how. We know why. We should collaborate in this effort, but don’t resort to EJK. That’s our concern. As bad as it is (to kill drug suspects without due process), it is worse if there’s an innocent individual killed,” he explained.
Palma also reiterated his support to the goal of the Duterte administration to wipe out the illegal drug menace in the country, including the police’s unrelenting arrests of drug suspects, including the so-called narco politicians, but it should be done within the bounds of the law.
“In principle, we support it. From the doctrine of the church, it is alright for any erring public official to be arrested for the crimes they are proven to have committed. Just don’t resort to EJK,” he added.
The Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (CPADAO), on the other hand, lauded the arrests of locally elected officials linked to the illegal drugs trade.
CPADAO legal officer George John Cane, in a text message sent to Cebu Daily News, also expressed appreciation to Palma’s stern rebuke against officials involved in criminal activities.
“It is indeed very alarming that there are barangay officials who are involved in illegal drugs. Nonetheless, the law may be harsh but those who were arrested will have to prove their innocence in court,” he said.
Last Saturday, Jinnefer Mercader, the incumbent barangay captain of Lugo in Cebu’s northern town of Borbon, was arrested in a raid led by law enforcers from the Provincial Intelligence Branch of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO – PIB).
The PIB operatives swooped down on Mercader’s house in Barangay Cahel, the village that adjoins Barangay Lugo, based on a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms issued by Judge Jerry Dicdican of the Regional Trial Court Branch 25 of Danao City.
Confiscated from Mercader’s house were two unlicensed firearms, an M4 rifle and .38 caliber loaded with live ammunition. The PIB agents also seized one large pack and 40 small packs of suspected shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), with an estimated street value of P311,000.
Mercader admitted he was previously engaged in the illegal drugs trade but insisted that he was no longer doing so this time.
He likewise revealed that he was a hired gun who had killed at least 30 “criminals” in Cebu City in 2004.
Mercader’s arrest made him the 14th incumbent public official in Cebu nabbed by authorities for engaging in illegal activities such as drug peddling, indiscriminate firing, and possessing unlicensed firearms.
His arrest came barely two days after the Philippine National Police’s Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID–7) and the Danao City Police Station arrested Thelma Sekiguchi, an incumbent barangay councilwoman of Barangay Tuburan Sur in Danao City.
Police seized P500,000 worth of shabu from Sekiguchi, who was also included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of narco- politicians in the country.
Last July 6, former Medellin mayor Ricardo “Ricky” Ramirez was arrested for illegal possession of eight, high-powered guns. He was accused of engaging in the illegal drugs trade even as no drugs were found in his home in Medellin during the raid. Ramirez has belied the allegation.
In earlier reports, RID–7 head Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal said people can expect more narco-politicians to fall in their nets.
He said they were closely monitoring all narco-politicians in President Duterte’s list and one false move on their part could lead to their arrests.
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