MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday said a former police official who linked President Rodrigo Duterte's economic adviser to the illegal drug trade was just disgruntled and probably wanted to get back at the chief executive and the government after he himself was tagged in the narcotics trade.
Former police official Eduardo Acierto on Monday turned the tables on the government and accused Chinese national Michael Yang, an adviser and perceived friend of Duterte, of involvement in the illicit trade against which the President has been waging a relentless war.
Acierto said he submitted in 2017 an intelligence report to top law enforcement officials, including then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino, about alleged drug dealings of Yang and another Chinese national, Allan Lim.
The police official, formerly of the PNP's anti-drug unit, claimed the report was ignored.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Acierto probably just wanted to get back at the government and his accusers after he was implicated in the smuggling of billions worth of shabu found in magnetic lifters in Cavite last year.
In October 2018, the President ordered the release of a dossier linking Acierto and other former police officials to the illegal drug trade. In the same month, Customs intelligence agent Jimmy Guban accused Acierto of asking his help to smuggle the shabu shipment into the country.
“Obviously the motive is, since he has been accused of involvement in drugs, he wants to get back, that’s why he is pointing fingers at whoever,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
Panelo noted that Duterte already cleared Yang in October last year and that even Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua supposedly vouched for the businessman's integrity.
“According to the President, Ambassador Zhao slept in the house of Michael Yang and we all know the Chinese government is against illegal drugs. The ambassador will never associate himself with anyone involved in drugs,” Panelo said.
“The fact alone you are the ambassador of China and your government is against illegal drugs, how can you be associating yourself with somebody you know to be involved in drugs?”
Panelo said if Acierto knew that Yang was involved in the illegal drug trade, he should have done something about it. He added that law enforcement agencies must have also acted on the report of Acierto, who once served as officer-in-charge of the now-defunct Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group.
He said if the allegations against Yang were indeed true, “this President will not tolerate anyone regardless of the stature or relationship with him.”
But for now, “unless you can show proof that he (Yang) is involved, the trust and confidence [of the President] remains,” Panelo added.
WHERE’S THE REPORT?
Acierto believes he got set up and was implicated in the Cavite shabu smuggling case after he sent his intelligence documents on Yang to top law enforcement officials. He concluded that since his report was ignored, the President must have tolerated Yang.
Police Major General Camilo Cascolan confirmed receiving the report, which he said he forwarded 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 recalled telling Acierto.
(I told him, ‘You should have developed that information and build up a case. You should not neglect it. We should not let the President get tainted because someone with supposed drug links is close to him.’)
Dela Rosa added, he knew Yang from the early days of his career as a police officer in Davao City.
“Sabi ko sa kaniya [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.”
(I told him to work on the case because when I was in Davao, during the early part of my career, I had been seeing him. I’m a cop and sometimes I harbor suspicion on some Chinese because they are usually the ones involved in drugs.)
PNP chief Police General Oscar Albayalde, meanwhile, said he could not recall Acierto’s report.
“Kung talagang mayroon siyang binigay, kung totoo na mayroon siyang 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.
(If he really gave or told me something and if he was really sure that the person was involved, he should have acted on it, being an operating unit of the PNP.)
PDEA’s Aquino said Acierto indeed brought up the matter to him, but he noted the President eventually cleared Yang following an investigation.
“Oo, pumunta siya dito, pinag-usapan namin 'yan. Sinubmit ko kay [then special assistant to the president] Bong Go. Nagkaroon naman ng aksyon, inimbestagahan nila si Yang. Na-clear ng presidente dahil wala namang nakita sa kaniya,” Aquino said.
(He went here and talked about it. I submitted the report to [then special assistant to the president] Bong Go. There was an action, Yang was investigated. He was cleared by the President and nothing anomalous was found on him.)
While Duterte initially denied appointing Yang as economic adviser, photos posted online show that Yang enjoyed access to the chief executive. Yang was seen in several photos during visits to the Palace, as well as in Duterte's visit to China in 2016.
Acierto is currently under the custody of religious leaders. He said he sought the group’s assistance after learning that a P15-million bounty has allegedly been raised for his head.