Duterte to name and shame 'narco' officials

Alleged drug lord Rolando Espinosa (left) with police chief Ronald dela Rosa, after surrendering on Tuesday. President Duterte threatened to have the former mayor "shot on sight". Suspected kingpin Rolando Espinosa claims that his son Kerwin (left),
Alleged drug lord Rolando Espinosa (left) with police chief Ronald dela Rosa, after surrendering on Tuesday. President Duterte threatened to have the former mayor "shot on sight". PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Alleged drug lord Rolando Espinosa (left) with police chief Ronald dela Rosa, after surrendering on Tuesday. President Duterte threatened to have the former mayor "shot on sight". Suspected kingpin Rolando Espinosa claims that his son Kerwin (left),
Suspected kingpin Rolando Espinosa claims that his son Kerwin (left), who is still at large, is the true drug lord behind the syndicate.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

His list supposedly has up to 50 names; some see a political agenda as casualties rise

President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on crime has shifted into high gear, as he targets dozens of government officials he plans to shame publicly for their alleged involvement in the narcotics trade.

Casualties continue to mount. On Wednesday, six bodyguards of Rolando Espinosa, a small-town mayor accused of running a big drug syndicate in the central Philippines, died in a shoot-out with law enforcers.

Espinosa surrendered after Mr Duterte threatened to have him "shot on sight", but said his son Kerwin was the "drug lord". The younger Espinosa is supposedly an "asset" of two police generals that Mr Duterte named earlier as "protectors" of drug syndicates. Still at large, he has reportedly fled to Malaysia.

Mr Duterte is expected to name as many as 50 more "narco" mayors, governors and other officials.

"My God, you will be shocked" at those on the list, Mr Salvador Panelo, Mr Duterte's legal adviser, told reporters on Tuesday. Yesterday, police chief Ronald dela Rosa urged those on the "executive kill list" to follow Espinosa's lead and surrender.

At least two mayors have come out on national television to insist that they are being linked to the narcotics trade for political ends.

From the time Mr Duterte took office on June 30 up to Monday, the police have killed 12 drug suspects a day. More than 5,400 were arrested and 565,805 surrendered - figures that do not include dozens killed by unnamed vigilantes.

Mr Duterte, 71, who built his political career around eradicating crime in his southern city of Davao, said yesterday that he is not bothered by the rising body count.

"There's a tally: 470. I do not care... There will be more," he told a university forum.

He continues to enjoy record trust ratings - a sign that Filipinos have been generally indifferent to the growing body count. But some quarters have expressed concerns; Human Rights Watch has called the surge in killings unacceptable.

Senator Leila de Lima, a former chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, has filed a resolution seeking a Senate probe into the killings. "Impunity, once unleashed, has no boundaries. We cannot wage a war against drugs with blood," she said on Tuesday.

Setting his sights on another target, Mr Duterte said he also intends to whittle down the influence of "oligarchs" on government.

"I am fighting a monster. I am just two months old (as President), but believe me, I will destroy their clutches on our nation," he said at an environment summit yesterday.

On Wednesday, he singled out Mr Roberto Ongpin, a trade minister under Ferdinand Marcos and one of the nation's wealthiest men, as an oligarch he wants to destroy.

Mr Duterte chided Mr Ongpin for supposedly using his influence in previous governments to broaden his business interests, among them PhilWeb, an operator of Internet cafes focused on online gambling. After he quit as chairman of PhilWeb, its shares plunged in value.

Mr Duterte also blasted mining firms he said were controlled by wealthy families "that are doing nothing but influence-peddling". But he clarified he was not targeting all wealthy families, noting Environment Minister Gina Lopez "while a billionaire is also a crusader".

"She loves her country," he said. "She hates oligarchs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte to name and shame 'narco' officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe