MANILA - A former official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who has been linked to the illegal drug trade claimed that a Chinese businessman and economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte was involved in the drug trade.
Former Sr. Supt. Eduardo Acierto, who once served as the officer-in-charge of the now-defunct PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, surfaced from hiding to claim that businessman Michael Yang and a certain Allan Lim were behind the large shabu laboratory discovered in Davao City in 2004.
“Si Michael Yang, base doon sa report na sinubmit namin, siya yung involved sa clandestine laboratory sa Davao City na nahuli din namin o nalansag namin nung Dec 31, 2004. Ang report, siya ang tumanggap ng dalawang 20-footer van na galing Cotabato City [na] dinala sa Davao City,” Acierto told a select group of reporters.
Acierto added, he got the information from an asset he identified as “Panther.”
President Duterte denied in October 2018 that he appointed Yang as one of his economic advisers. However, a month later, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo admitted that Yang was indeed one of the President's "economic consultants" after news website Rappler published contracts which proved that Yang worked for the Palace in 2018.
Duterte has also defended Yang from Acierto’s allegations that the Chinese businessman was involved in the illegal drug trade.
He also released a dossier linking Acierto to the illegal drug trade.
Acierto believes he got set up and was implicated in the smuggling of multi-billion pesos worth of shabu found in magnetic lifters in Cavite last year after he sent a report to then PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino detailing his knowledge of Yang’s allegedly illicit activities.
It was former Customs intelligence agent Jimmy Guban who accused Acierto of asking his help to smuggle the shabu shipment into the country.
“Hindi ko alam kung anong nangyari dun sa report ko, kung hinarang ba ito, pinalitan o nakarating, bakit walang aksyon, pare-pareho tayong naghahanap ng sagot,” Acierto said.
Police Director Camilo Cascolan confirmed receiving Acierto’s report when he was then the head of the PNP Civil Security group. He said he passed it on to Dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa, for his part, said he told Acierto to work on the case.
“Dapat you develop that information, mag-build up kayo ng kaso d’yan. Huwag niyo pabayaan. Hindi tayo dapat papayag na masisira ang presidente na mayroong isang tao na involved sa drugs naka-dikit kay presidente,” Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa added, he knew Yang from the early days of his career in Davao City.
“Sabi ko sa kanya [Acierto], trabahuhin niyo iyan, dahil noong nasa Davao pa ako, noong early part pa of my career… nakikita ko na yung tao na ‘yan mismo. Alam mo naman tayo, pulis ka, mapag-duda ka lalo na alam natin na palaging involved sa drugs yung mga Chinese.”
PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, meanwhile, said he could not recall Acierto’s report.
“Kung talagang meron syang binigay, kung totoo na meron syang sinabi sa akin, if he's really sure na involved ang tao, he should have acted on it already being then an operating unit of the PNP,” Albayalde said.
PDEA’s Aquino said Acierto indeed brought up the matter to him, but the President cleared Yang following an investigation.
“Oo, pumunta sya dito, pinag-usapan namin yan. Sinubmit ko kay [then special assistant to the president] Bong Go. Nagkaroon naman ng aksyon, inembistagahan nila si Yang. Na-clear ng presidente dahil wala namang nakita sa kanya,” Aquino said.
While Duterte initially denied appointing Yang as economic adviser, photos posted online show that Yang enjoyed access to the chief executive. Yang is seen in several photos during visits to the Palace, as well as in Duterte's visit to China in 2016.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also stressed that Duterte has cleared Yang of the allegations, and even Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has vouched for his integrity.
“Hndi ba na-clarify na iyan. Even the ambassador has cleared Michael Yang. In fact, he was telling personally -- and even I think I made a statement -- ‘I will never associate myself with one who is involved in drugs,’” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing on Monday.
“I don’t think Michael Yang was ever involved, otherwise nasa listahan na iyan or may kaso na iyan,” Panelo added.
Acierto is currently under the custody of religious leaders. He did not identify which religious group is helping him. He said he sought the group’s assistance after learning that a P15 million bounty has allegedly been raised for his head.
'HE NEVER SHOWED UP'
Meantime, House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chair Rep. Ace Barbers is surprised Acierto has surfaced to finally refute allegations he facilitated the release of magnetic lifters that purportedly contained illegal drugs from the Port of Manila last year.
Barbers said they would have wanted to give Acierto his chance to refute the allegations before the committee but he never showed up.
”We invited him several times to appear before the Committee on Dangerous Drugs in the House wala siya. He never showed up. He would have given sana his reasons and his thoughts on the issue of drugs in the magnetic lifters,” Barbers told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.
“He did not give us time to ask him questions eh that’s why I’m surprised ngayon na lumalabas siya at meron siyang ganiyang klaseng statements.”
The panel is still in the process of finalizing its committee report. But in a press release issued by the House last February 7, the panel recommended the filing of charges against Acierto and several other individuals.
“Sa ngayon, we’re still in the drafting of the committee report. Naubusan lang ng oras because when Congress adjourned sine die eh I did not have time anymore to sit down and call for a meeting in the committee to review our findings,” he said. - with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News