Pangasinan exec: Duterte drugs matrix ‘big, horrible joke’

CONTROVERSIAL. Former Pangasinan governor and incumbent Representative Amado Espino Jr. Screen shot of Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – Pangasinan local officials on Thursday, August 25, fumed over President Rodrigo Duterte’s matrix of alleged prison drug trade in the Philippines, dismissing it as a big joke, a report that’s without “credible validation.”

“As far as I’m concerned, that matrix is nothing but a big and horrible joke,” said Raffy Baraan, Pangasinan provincial administrator who was linked by Duterte to the illegal drugs trade along with other former and current public officials such as 5th district Representative Amado Espino Jr.

Duterte's data showed that Baraan stood as "cover" for Espino's illegal activities. The matrix, presented by Duterte late Wednesday night, August 24, described Espino as the ”richest politician in Northern Luzon" who has "amassed unexplained wealth." It also links him to black sand mining, quarrying, and jueteng. (READ: Pangasinan gov to face graft cases over black sand mining)

In a statement Thursday, Espino insisted that he’s “staunchly against” illegal drugs and denied ties with Senator Leila de Lima, who was also identified in Duterte’s matrix as part of the drug network that’s being run from inside the national penitentiary in the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa.

“I am completely taken aback by this most recent pronouncement coming from no less than the President himself,” Espino said.

The “apparent purpose” of the presidential exposé, the congressman and former governor said, “is to make it appear that there is a regular flow of drug money from Muntinlupa, down the line.”

War on drugs

Duterte has been leading the charge in a nationwide campaign against illegal drugs, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of alleged drug peddlers and users.

His war on drugs took a strange twist when he accused De Lima of having a lover with links to drug lords. De Lima on Thursday branded the matrix as "scrap paper." (READ: De Lima: Duterte drug matrix 'garbage')

Espino stressed that he has never been associated with De Lima, who was “mainly instrumental in pursuing the investigation of a fabricated murder case against me at the height of elections in 2012-2013.”

During that election, Espino was not part of the party of then President Benigno Aquino III. But in the 2016 polls, he became a strong ally of the Liberal Party and its defeated standard-bearer, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.

“It appears that this announcement was made without the benefit of a credible validation, to establish the truth,” Espino said. “Our only request now, is for this alleged matrix to be subjected to a thorough and objective investigation, and for us to be given the chance to present our side and clear our names.” – Rappler.com