(File photo)

El Nido mayor Nieves Rosento is challenging the country’s police force and lead anti-drug law enforcement agency to disclose their basis for identifying her as a “narco-politician” as she vowed Friday to fight her inclusion in President Rodrigo Duterte’s new narco-list.

In an interview with Palawan News on Friday, Mayor Rosento said it is “unfair” for her and other politicians to be included in the so-called narco-list without the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and other line agencies disclosing to them the results of the intelligence investigations and lifestyle checks they conducted.

“I’m a simple public servant, I’m not a narco-politician. Ang magiging move ko dyan is to show evidence na magsu-support na I am not involved in the illegal drugs trade. Nagtataka po tayo kung bakit may ganitong pangyayari at saka, hindi ko alam kung saan nag-umpisa dahil wala, hindi naman tayo involved. Ano ba ‘yong mga dahilan? Hindi ko alam, nangangapa ako kung saan nanggaling ito,” Rosento said.

In November 2017, Rosento was among 20 local executives whose deputation was removed by the National Police Commission (Napolcom) for alleged linked to the illegal drugs trade. The other mayor in Palawan whose authority over the municipal police force was also removed was Abraham Ibba of Bataraza.

She said she and Ibba sent their replies to the NAPOLCOM regarding the matter, but have not heard from them since then.

“Nagpadala kami ng reply, we sent our explanation, but wala na po silang naihayag sa atin after that time. Ni-reach natin sila, pumunta dito mismo ‘yong attorney ng NAPOLCOM kasi NAPOLCOM ang naglabas dyan. Itinatanong natin kung ano ba ‘yong talagang dahilan kasi… bakit kami nakasama… wala namang masabi sila. Hindi nila masabi kung paano kami na-involve.

Rosento said she was aware there was a series of intelligence investigation that was conducted on her, including a request for her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) and other documents, which she submitted since she was confident she will be cleared but she did not hear from the NAPOLCOM anymore.

“Sobrang hindi ko alam kong paano na kami magsisimula, hindi ko na alam kung saan o ano ang pinanggagalingan niyan. Mabuti sana kung alam ko na may connection ako sa drugs, wala naman kaya hindi ko alam kung sino ang lalapitan ko para maayos ito. If I am a protector, I should have a lot of money, pero hindi ako mayaman na politiko,” Rosento said.

She added she was surprised to know that her name was included in the third narco-list that was released by Duterte on March 14 during the meeting of the National Peace and Order Council in Davao City.

Commenting on the reason that the narco-list was disclosed by Duterte to warn voters against them in the next election, Rosento expressed there are only two things she is worried about and these are her family and the town of El Nido.

“There are only two things in my mind right now, El Nido and my family. Hindi ko iniisip ang susunod na election because ‘yong pagiging mayor ko is just a privilege. Prebilihiyo lang na ibinigay at ipinagkatiwala ng mga kababayan natin ‘yong mandatong ito sa atin,” Rosento added.

Rosento said she will be submitting to President Duterte’s office her letter of explanation through Sec. Eduardo Año of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

This letter, she said, will include proofs and evidence on why she is not involved in the illegal drugs trade.

She said it will also contain her request for a reinvestigation and a new  lifestyle check because what the PNP and the PDEA have right now cannot be trusted.

“I-inform sana nila ako kung paano nag-start ito, ano ba ‘yong violation ko talaga. Paano ba ako na-implicate at na-involve? Para ma-hear naman po nila ang side ko. Hindi ko tinatawaran ang kakayahan ng mga intelligence team pero ang hirap naman nito, even my family name nga mali pa, eh. Nakita mo ‘yong list nila, it’s Rosente. Even my family name they got wrong. Family name pa lang mali na, eh validated na ba ‘yon? Validated na ba ‘yan? How come you’re telling me even my family, Rosento is different from Rosente,” she pointed out.

Rosento said despite the disappointment brought by her inclusion in the supposed narco-list, she is confident that she will be able to clear her name eventually.

“I’m thinking positively about this. Come May 2019, let the people decide. If I still have the mandate of the people by that time, sana tumigil na rin sila. Sana tingnan din naman nila kung sino ang nagpapaabot sa kanila ng impormasyon tungkol sa akin. I’m ready to open my bank account to them to check,” she said.

Rosento said other than her small boat operation, she has no other business interests in El Nido.

She said if she is a narco-politician, she will not be living in a hard up area in the municipality.

“Ako po ay nakatira in something like… in the middle of an area na ang harapan ko ay mga small shanties. Sana puntahan naman nila ang bahay ko para makita nila. I totally deny I am a narco-politician. I am not a narco-politician. Yong payment nga ng boarding house ng anak ko nade-delay ako nang payment, tapos narco-politician ako? I get notices of disconnection from the Palawan Electric Cooperative kasi di pa ako nakakabayad ng ilaw ko. Puputulan na nga ako ang nakikiusap mga anak ko. How can I be a narco-politician like what I am being accused of when I even have to pawn my jewelry sometimes para makatulong lang para sa pangangailangan ko? Sinasabihan ko empleyado ko isangla mo muna itong alahas ko under your name para lang matulungan ko ‘yong tao. If I have a lot of money, why would I even go as far na isangla ang alahas ko,” Rosento said.

She said she is embarrassed to admit it, but she is even borrowing from her staff when money is hard just to help a sick person who needed her help.

Rosento said her “only” request to President Duterte is that she be given the chance to know about the basis that was used for her inclusion and for her to explain her side.

“Yes, lalabanan ko ito because ako I have to clear my name dahil at stake na po dito ang El Nido at ang family ko. I am not bothered by this because of the May midterm elections, I am because this is about being the mother of my three children who want a good future for them. Dahil dito baka pati sila maapektuhan nang sasabihin ng ibang tao. I am asking the president, I am asking him na sana naman ay imbestigahan kami ng maayos — tingnan kung ano bang mga pamumuhay namin. Please, redo the investigation because this is unfair,” she said.

On Thursday, Duterte revealed the names of 46 politicians on the administration’s narco-list. Among them was Rosento, whom he said he has heard of a long time ago.

“Narinig na kita noon pa, ma’am,” Duterte said after reading Rosento’s name. She is only the local chief executive included in the list from the MIMAROPA. (with reports from Ruth Rodriguez)

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.