BOLINAO, Pangasinan — First District Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste has expressed dismay over his inclusion into the list of 46 incumbent elected officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, but welcomed the filing of charges so he could defend and clear his name in court.
“I guess it is but normal to feel sad and a little angry because the allegation is not true. I am as well thankful that it was again reopened and the said case was filed against us. I believe that is good because I am now in a proper forum to defend my side and fight for my right unlike before when this issue is always used (every election season),” Celeste said in Tagalog in an interview Friday.
The narco-list was read by President Rodrigo Duterte during the National and Regional Peace and Order Council held in Davao City on Thursday evening.
Asked if he will make any move to talk to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) or send a message to the President, he said, “I need not talk to them and beg, I’m open to whatever they want to do, and for them to speak of whatever they will see in their investigation. But since this is now in the court, then we will answer in the court.”
Celeste said he was surprised that his name was still on the latest list despite the recommendation of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) 1 (Ilocos) to delist his name, including those of two other mayors from La Union province.
He said based on the RPOC-1 Resolution on the Revalidation of Drug Personalities from the President’s Narco-List, it was stated that Celeste, Mayor Reynaldo Florer of Naguilian and Mayor Martin de Guzman of Bauang, both in La Union, had “no monitored involvement” in the illegal drug activity.
The RPOC-1 also recommended the deletion of their names from the President’s narco-List. The signatories were Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos (RPOC Chairperson), Police Regional Office 1 Director, Brig. Gen. Romulo Sapitula (RPOC Vice-Chairperson), PDEA-1 Director Bryan Babang, NICA-1 Officer-in-Charge Cherry Tamang, Lt. Col. Rey Rico (Group Commander-MIG 1, ISAFP) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) 1 Director James Fadrilan.
“In 2016, the first time the list was out, I requested for an investigation. The investigation result was that I was found negative. During the time of Department of (the) Interior and Local Government Secretary (Ismail) Sueno, there was a verbal pronouncement that I was cleared of involvement in the trade but he was removed from his post, so my formal clearance from the list did not pursue. Later on, the RPOC revalidated and conducted investigation and the result turned out that I am negative. The two La Union mayors were delisted but not me,” he lamented.
He attributed this latest development to politics.
“They have been doing this to our family. If the President was given wrong information, they prospered with their black propaganda. But the Pangasinenses, they know who are really doing the right thing,” Celeste said, adding that he is continuously receiving messages of support and love from the time the list was made public by the President.
The DILG has filed graft and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against 43 local executives and three congressmen for alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. (PNA)