BAUANG, La Union – Thousands of residents here held a ‘unity walk’ yesterday around the town in support of Mayor Martin De Guzman who was named by President Duterte as among the four alleged narco-politicians from La Union.
Barangay folks, non-government organizations, religious groups, municipal officials and employees first attended a mass at the Saints Peter and Paul Church before marching around the town carrying placards.
“We believe that wrong information was fed to the President. Mayor de Guzman is innocent on the accusations and he is not involved in illegal drug activities,” said Doni Baradi, president of the Bauang Market Vendors Association.
De Guzman said that he and his family are deeply saddened by the President’s announcement saying that his conscience is clear.
“The people of Bauang and the province of La Union as a whole, know me well, my personality and my family background. I want to clear my name. The truth should come out so we will know the reality of this matter,” De Guzman said.
De Guzman, along with Mayor Reynaldo Flores of Naguilian town, Dante Garcia of Tubao and former 2nd District Representative Eufranio Eriguel are included on the list.
In Agoo town, more than 1,500 supporters of Eriguel braved the rains to attend the unity walk where some residents of nearby towns also joined the event to vouch for Eriguel’s innocence against illegal drug trade.
“It is a celebration of oneness for Congressman Eriguel as a manifestation of our support for him through this ‘unity umbrella walk’,” said Dong Magpili, information officer of the local government unit.
“The attack is not only on him but on the people of Agoo. He was with us when we needed him and now, he needs the people, we are one to support him.”
Eriguel denied any involvement in illegal drugs saying that he supported the eradication of drugs in his district during his term.
Mayor Garcia, for his part, vehemently denied any involvement on illegal drug activities and asked authorities to revalidate their list.
“I never was involved in any use of illegal drugs, selling or protecting anyone from this illegal activity. I maybe suspected of coddling because the No. 3 person (Salvador Marzan alias Amang) in the regional drug watch list is from my town. But I did not sit in on this matter. I once wrote the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) to conduct an operation against Amang. He was indeed raided by NBI and CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) from Manila but he was able to evade detention because there are alleged influential persons protecting him,” Garcia said, who went to Camp Crame to clear his name.
Garcia said he did not stop in coordinating with authorities about the activities of Amang but he is lucky enough to evade arrest.
“I am open for any investigation because my conscience is clear,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that he even supported and campaigned for the presidential bid of Duterte because he was confident that the proliferation of illegal drugs would be solved and probably it would pave the way for the arrest Amang and his protectors
“My townsmates know me well. They know how I served them for 24 years. I hope that the truth will come out,” Garcia said.
Mayor Flores also denied the allegation. Naguilian residents will also stage a ‘peace rally’ on Monday in support for Flores.
By Dexter A. See