Ex-Surigao rep: I’m not involved in illegal drugs trade

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/07 August) — Former Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Guillermo A. Romarate Jr., has denied involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

“I am saddened by reports that my name has been mentioned by President Duterte in the so-called ‘illegal drugs list.’ I have always been vocal of my support for the vigorous anti-illegal drugs campaign of the President. I have no idea on what evidence or in what capacity my inclusion in the list rests,” he said in a statement to MindaNews.

Romarate, who served three-terms as Representative of the second district, ran for Governor in the last elections under the Nacionalist Party, but lost.

He said he presented himself to Philippine National Police (PNP) regional director, Chief Supt. Rolando Felix in Butuan City, in compliance to the President’s directive.

He was accompanied by his daughter, former Tubod mayor Ched Hemady Arcillas.

Romarate said the accusation is “lamentable, the shame and dishonor caused upon myself and my family is incalculable and irretrievable.”

“Nonetheless, I will keep my faith that at the end, the truth shall set me free, that I am totally innocent of all these insinuations. My pain will not detract my support to the President in his war against drugs,” he said.

Romarate runs a micro-financing business for 24 years now with over 100 branches in Visayas and Mindanao.

He said he has never engaged in anything illegal since he started business.

“My companies have grown through time and the sweat and sheer hardwork of my employees,” he added.

Romarate admitted that he has a nephew who is now in the National Bilibid Prison.

“If it is still in my having a nephew named Gilbert Colangco as what my political opponents have painstakingly pointed to then allow me to reiterate my misgivings in not having the power to choose my relatives. I have never celebrated, nor partaken of, Mr Colangco’s criminal life,” Romarate said.

Colangco, also known as Herbert, convicted for robbery and an inmate at the New Bilibid Prisons, was earlier tagged by Duterte as belonging to a triad running the illegal drugs trade in the country.

Romarate said of his nephew: “I abhor everything that he represents. I deplore the evils that he has done on the society and, as an uncle who tried to reform him during his younger years, I am hurt seeing him go down this path. My association with him is limited only to our shared blood. I and the rest of my family members have been law-abiding citizens all our life. None of my children are involved in drug use; they are all productive professionals in their chosen fields.”

Romarate said that during his stint as the lawmaker in the province he has not involved in any irregularities such as the infamous Napoles scam.

“When my term ended this year, I ran for governor in Surigao del Norte but lost because I could not mount a serious challenge against ‘big money’ that currently pervades our politics. All things considered, I regard President Duterte’s action as a blessing in disguise. I expect that a full-blown investigation will follow, and I am willing to submit myself to full scrutiny so that once and for all—after years and years of being unjustly linked to my nephew’s criminal activities—I will be able to finally clear my name,” Romarate said.

Romarate said this accusation is not new to him, since he started to run for Congress his political opponents had always accused him of being a druglord every campaign period.

During the last elections, pamphlets used as black propaganda were scattered all over the province naming Romarate as a druglord.

Prior to his three terms in Congress, Romarate served two terms as mayor in the town of Tubod in Surigao del Norte.

Aside from Romarate, two other persons in Surigao del Norte were named by Duterte: former Alegria town mayor Jessie Aguilera and Judge Ezekiel Dagala of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) in Dapa.

Aguilera told MindaNews Sunday afternoon in a telephone interview that she is not involved in any drug trade.

Aguilera who served three terms as mayor of Alegria and now serves as municipal dentist in the town of Mainit in Surigao del Norte, said she went to Alegria Police Office Sunday morning and was advised by Police Chief Inspector Elmer Ligalig, the town’s police chief to proceed to the office of the regional PNP chief in Butuan City.

“I want to clear my name and I want to reiterate that I’m not involved in any illegal drug trade,” she said.

MindaNews tried to get Dagala’s side but he could not be reached for comment. (Roel Catoto /MindaNews)