Cebu City mayor may face drug raps: Aguirre

MANILA Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday revealed that Cebu City Mayor Tomas OsmeAa might face drug charges after a witness submitted an affidavit tagging him as protector of drug lords in Cebu.

Aguirre made a comment after OsmeAa threatened to file a case against him for allegedly interfering in the tax evasion complaint which the Cebu City government filed against retail giant SM Group and its banking arm, BDO Unibank.

Aguirre dared OsmeAa to just file the graft and disbarment cases against him, as the mayor reportedly planned.

"That is baseless. He should just file it instead of threatening me publicly," he stressed.

The DOJ chief explained that there was nothing irregular or anomalous in his order for transfer of the cases against SM and BDO executives from the Cebu prosecutor's office.

"The conflict between BDO and Mayor OsmeAa there in Cebu is very deep, so the respondents requested that the case be transferred because they could hardly expect fairness since the people there will favor the mayor," he told reporters on Monday.

"So what I did was to transfer the case here and assigned it to one of our prosecutors. But when I did that, it was within my power to transfer cases, which I always exercise," the DOJ Secretary explained.

Meanwhile, Aguirre said that the witness surfaced last year, but he did not divulge it immediately as he opted to first verify the information.

"We have an affidavit and a witness under the WPP (witness protection program) who is saying that he (OsmeAa) is in the payroll of drug lords," the DOJ chief told reporters on Monday.

"I did not reveal it because I'm still building the case. But the witness with the affidavit is there and I'm having it reviewed by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and see if there could be some additional evidence," he stressed.

Once the case buildup concludes, Aguirre said the NBI would file charges against OsmeAa.

Asked on what specific charges could be filed against the local executive, Aguirre answered "something like protection of drug lords, together with the police officials."

Source: Philippine News Agency