Two Philippine politicians surrendered to police yesterday after President Rodrigo Duterte warned government officials allegedly linked to the illegal drugs trade that they would be killed if they resist arrest.
The politicians - a mayor and a former mayor of towns in the southern province of Lanao del Sur - admitted they were previously involved in the illegal drugs trade, national police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said.
“They have decided to change and help in the anti-drug campaign,” dela Rosa said after presenting the officials in a press conference at police headquarters in Manila.”Why run if you can help?”
Dela Rosa said he expects more to surrender after Duterte issued the warning to local officials despite criticism of the administration’s anti-drug campaign that has left nearly 500 suspects killed in just one month.
“You never thought where this problem will lead? I will really kill you all. Have you seen what you have done to the Philippines? Then you expect me to forgive you?” the 71-year-old president said yesterday.
“My order is to shoot to kill all of you,” he told reporters after visiting a police officer who was wounded in a shootout during an anti-drug operation in Davao Del Sur province, near Davao City, where he used to be mayor.
“Soldiers, policemen, mayors - you will go first before the civilians,” Duterte said.
Duterte has named five police generals, including two retired officials, and a mayor along with his son as people who are allegedly involved in drug trafficking.
The generals have turned themselves in for investigation, while the mayor has surrendered and denied any involvement in the illegal trade.
The mayor, however, admitted that his son, who remains at large, was involved in drug trafficking.
Duterte’s aides said the president would name dozens more officials in local government units that are involved in the illegal trade.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s warning against narco-politicians was “congruent with government policy on maintaining and protecting peace and order in the nation.”
The president “has given due and ample notice that the clear and present danger of drugs engulfing the nation will be addressed and law enforcers will neutralise those who resist or endanger the lives of arresting officers,” he added in a statement.
Authorities are hunting down politicians allegedly involved in illegal drugs on the list of President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as drug lords reportedly seeking refuge with an armed group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 
Chief Supt Agripino Javier, ARMM acting police regional director, told The Manila Times on Thursday by phone that law enforcers are doubling their efforts in running after the so-called narco-politicians whom they earlier asked to surrender, or be shot along with the suspected drug lords if they resist.
The names of the “narco-ma­yors” have not been revealed to the public yet but officials said the suspects have been told to voluntarily surrender to defend themselves from the accusations.
Some of them from the ARMM, according to the officials, just expressed willingness to come out in public, while some have surfaced to clear their names.
ARMM is composed of five provinces — Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi — and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
In Lanao del Sur, Mohamed Ali Abinal, a former mayor of Marantao town, reportedly surrendered to police provincial director Senior Supt Rustom Duran.
The Manila Times tried several times to confirm the report from the police official, but failed.
Abinal, who lost in the race for vice-governor in the May elections, reportedly denied allegations linking him to drug syndicates.
Late last month, the “Drug Queen of the South” and her husband, a military official identified as Suharto Macabuat,were arrested in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Northern Mindanao identified the suspect as Johaira Abinal, alias “Mayora Marimar,” who is on Duterte’s list.
In Maguindanao, Montasir Sabal, the incumbent town mayor of Talitay, recently surfaced after he was publicly named by the police in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, as the main target in their operation.
The police said Sabal and his trusted aide were the primary targets but the mayor eluded operatives who came to serve a search warrant in his house in Barangay Kalawag 1, Isulan, last Saturday.
Sabal later denied he escaped.
He admitted, though, that he was previously engaged in the illegal drug trade while a police officer in 2007 before he entered politics.
Also, Maguindanao police director Senior Supt Nickson Muksan told The Manila Times on Wednesday that he brought former mayor Rasul Sangki of Ampatuan town to ARMM regional police director Javier after his name appeared on social media sites as among politicians alle­gedly involved in drugs.
Meanwhile, Javier confirmed the claim of the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, that many drug lords who had evaded arrests in various operations in Luzon, the Visayas and other parts of Mindanao are hiding in the vicinity of ARMM under the protection of the unidentified armed group.
“That’s true, if the chief of the PNP said so,” he said, without elaborating.
According to de la Rosa, he had received intelligence information that the drug lords, who are still at large, had allegedly fled to Marawi City in Lanao del Sur and sought protection from the armed group.
“They may be seeking safe haven, safe refuge in the area,” he said.
“If they are being coddled by the armed group, then wait, we will request the Philippine Air Force to bomb your (armed group) location,” de la Rosa added.
He, however, did not identify the suspects or their coddlers.
Aside from kidnap-for-ransom and private armed groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front and the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated IS Ranao or Maute Group are among those operating in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur province.
Last month, the MILF, however, inked an agreement with the Department of the Interior and Local Government in support of President Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Rights groups have condemned the killings and urged Duterte to take steps to ensure that the rights of suspects are respected and that the rule of law is upheld, while cracking down on drug trafficking.