Laguna mayors in Duterte’s ‘narco list’ cry foul

Duterte’s “narco list” included three incumbent Laguna mayors: San Pablo City mayor Loreto “Amben” Amante, Los Baños mayor Ceasar Perez, and Bay mayor Bruno Ramos. Perez called the allegation “foolish,” Ramos described its effects as “parusa,” while Amante’s camp said it’s “nothing new.”

From left: San Pablo City mayor Loreto Amante, Los Baños mayor Ceasar Perez, and Bay mayor Bruno Ramos have been publicly accused of involvement in illegal drugs by no less than the president. Ramos said it has taken its toll on him. (Photos from their Facebook pages)

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SANTA ROSA CITY — Incumbent mayors in Laguna province who were included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent list of local officials allegedly involved in illegal drugs are crying foul over the release of the list but said they were not surprised.

President Duterte’s March 14 release of the so-called “narco list,” built up with so much suspense given its proximity to the May elections, has been widely criticized for violating the rights of those in it. Duterte has also been accused of trying to influence the conduct and outcome of the elections for legislators and local officials.

“President Duterte’s naming of politicians he accuses of involvement in illegal drugs is an outrageous attempt to influence local elections in May,” said Human Rights Watch, the US-based nongovernment group. It described the list as “weaponizing of the ‘drug war’ against politicians (that) further undermines the rule of law, democracy and civil liberties in the Philippines.”

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Duterte included three incumbent Laguna mayors in his list: San Pablo City mayor Loreto “Amben” Amante, Los Baños mayor Ceasar Perez, and Bay mayor Bruno Ramos.

Amante, who has been implicated in illegal drugs in the past, has not reacted to the “narco list,” although a source close to him described it as “nothing new.”


Perez, meanwhile, expressed frustration, calling the allegations against him nothing but “katarantaduhan” (foolishness). Perez said he was consulting his lawyers on the administrative case the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it would file before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Two years ago, the DILG stripped Perez and Ramos of control over the police in their respective towns. The move, the agency said, was based on a resolution by the National Police Commission (Napolcom), which is under the DILG, tagging them as protectors of the illegal drug trade.  

The same Napolcom resolution included former Tanauan City, Batangas, mayor Antonio Halili, who was gunned down later, in 2018, during a flag-raising ceremony in City Hall.

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The Amantes, meanwhile, were among the first batch of mayors, governors, policemen, and court judges publicly named by Duterte in 2016 as having links to illegal drugs. The clan patriarch, former mayor Vicente Amante, Loreto’s father, sought to clear his name with former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa but nothing, apparently, came out of that.

The next year, unknown assailants gunned down Vicente’s brother Damaso in San Pablo City. Vicente, in a 2017 interview, said Damaso and their other brother, Edwin, were the ones into illegal activities, not him.


Ramos said being named in the “narco list” has caused him sleepless nights. “Parusa ito. Hindi na ako makatulog sa gabi,” he said. Ramos, 76, said he is bowing out of politics as a result because the drug issue against him has taken a toll on his health. He denied involvement in illegal drugs.

“Disappointed talaga ako. Ilang taon kong serbisyo (as a mayor), nawala lang sa isang iglap,” he said.

The DILG said it’s going to file administrative cases against those named in the “narco list.” (Laguna Now)