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Iligan City Mayor denies implicating 2 former lawmakers in illegal drug trade

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) – Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia on Friday denied a hand in the report about the alleged involvement of two former lawmakers in that city in the illegal drug trade.

In a statement released to the media here, the City Mayor's Information Office, said that Regencia had nothing to do when President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly included the names of former Rep. Vicente Belmonte, of Iligan City, and former City Mayor Lawrence Cruz in the "narco-list" as alleged protectors of the illegal drugs there.

Cruz served as Iligan city mayor and representative, while Belmonte, who accused Regencia as the mastermind in an attempt to kill him in 2014, used to be a congressman in the city’s lone district.

In his speech before the business leaders on Monday, Duterte mentioned “Representative Vincente” and “Mayor Lawrence” as just two of the political figures involved in the illegal drug trade in Nothern Mindanao.

Duterte also said his exposé would eventually lead to the prosecution of the two former officials.

In an interview on Love Radio-Iligan on Tuesday, Cruz said that he was the “Lawrence” being alluded to by the President, but denied that he (Cruz) is a drug protector.

“I just want the people to know that [the accusation] is not true. I am innocent. Even if I have to undergo a drug test today, I will test negative,” Cruz was quoted as saying.

Now that his name was mentioned by Duterte, Cruz said he was afraid that he would end up like the slain Albuera, Leyte mayor, Rolando Espinosa, who was killed by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) inside his cell at the Baybay, Leyte sub-provincial jail last month.

He said that he now feared that his house would be raided and searched and if the law enforcers would find nothing, they would resort to “planting” illegal drugs, and then later "kill me."

Cruz said that politics might be behind the accusation and assured his political opponents that he had no plans of running in the next elections.

Jose Pantoja, the Iligan City Information Officer, said that Regencia challenged Belmonte and Cruz to file a legal action against Duterte for implicating them in the illegal drug trafficking in the region.

Pantoja said that there was no truth to the allegation that it was Regencia and Iligan city police director Senior Superintendent Leon Roy Ga who provided Duterte the names of Cruz and Belmonte.

Cruz should not blame Regencia and Ga on why their (Cruz and Belmonte) names were mentioned in Duterte's drug list and urged the lawmaker to file charges against the President, Pantoja said.

Pantoja said that it was not as easy as anyone might think to simply tell the President to include the names of Cruz and Belmonte in the narco-list.

“Duterte has the power to order the law enforcement authorities [like the CIDG, PDEA and the NBI] through their intelligence units to verify the name of politicians involved in the illegal drug trade. He (Cruz) must not blame Regencia right away,” he added.

As of this writing, Belmonte has yet to issue a statement regarding Duterte’s statement. (PNA)

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