A spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said a certain Michael Yang being linked to a large shabu laboratory in Davao City in 2004 is not the same Michael Yang who is the owner of the Davao City Los Amigos (DCLA) stores in Mindanao.
Speaking to ANC's Early Edition, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo again defended the Davao-based Yang who is a former economic adviser of President Duterte.
"It appears now that this Michael Yang is different from the Michael Yang na sinasabi ni [former Sr. Supt. Eduardo] Acierto. Narinig ko si [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director Aaron] Aquino sinasabi niya: Mukhang hindi kasi there is no adverse statement or lumalabas na report regarding the adviser," he said.
He also chastised Acierto for linking Yang to illegal narcotics, saying the police official should have arrested or filed charges against Yang.
Acierto, who once served as the officer-in-charge of the now-defunct PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, earlier said Yang, a Chinese businessman and economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte, and another Chinese national Allan Lim were involved in the drug trade.
He claimed Yang was behind a clandestine drug laboratory discovered in Davao City in 2004, and that Yang also received 2 20-footer vans from Cotabato City that was brought to Davao City.
Police Director Camilo Cascolan and former Philippine National Police chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa confirmed receiving Acierto’s intelligence report about Yang sometime in 2017. Dela Rosa said he ordered Acierto to work on the case.
In a separate interview, PDEA chief Aquino said Acierto brought up the matter of Yang’s alleged drugs link in August last year. He said Acierto asked him to submit his 10-page intelligence report to then Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.
“Ang sabi sa akin ni Colonel Acierto: ‘Sir, pwede bang paabot mo ito sa Palasyo?’ So I did that, I was able to talk to Secretary Bong Go. In summary, sinabi ko sa kanya ang nilalaman ng report ni Colonel Acierto. The reaction of Secretary Bong Go at that time, he was shocked. He was asking me saan galing ito, bakit nagkaganito? I told him you need to inform the President,” he told ANC’s Headstart.
A few weeks after Aquino’s meeting with Go, the President himself made a statement clearing Yang of any link to illegal drugs. “I assume nakarating kay Presidente ‘yung report na ‘yun,” the PDEA chief said.
He also said the intel report still needed validation since several people were being linked to narcotics. He admitted, however, that he cannot locate his copy of Acierto’s report. “Sa katagalan, hindi ko makita 'yung report na binigay sa akin ni Colonel Acierto,” he said.
On Wednesday, the President again defended Yang, saying the latter was a plain businessman. He said Yang's supposed association with high-ranking Chinese officials, including Premier Wang Yi, should speak volumes about his integrity.
While Duterte initially denied appointing Yang as economic adviser, Panelo said Yang was indeed one of the President’s economic “consultants.”
Photos posted online also show that Yang enjoyed access to President Duterte. Yang is seen in several photos during visits to the Palace, as well as in Duterte's visit to China in 2016.
‘MICHAEL YANG IN PANGASINAN?’
In the interview, Aquino said a check on PDEA’s own National Drug Information System showed that a certain “Michael Yang” was identified as an “alleged drug pusher operating in Sual, Pangasinan.”
He said the report on Yang’s involvement was filed in 2004, the same year that a shabu laboratory was discovered in Davao City.
However, Aquino rejected that the Michael Yang in PDEA’s system is the same one alleged in Acierto’s report.
“The report was in 2004 pa. When we go to the ground, wala nang Michael Yang dun. Iba na ‘yung nagrerenta dun sa lugar na pinagrerentahan daw ni Michael Yang,” he said.
He also pointed out that the name “Michael Yang” is a common name for Chinese. PDEA’s own office in Region XI also “found no involvement of Michael Yang to illegal drugs”, he said.
“As of now, yes, he is clear. I believe the President that Michael Yang is clear until such time na may crop up na hard evidence na will pinpoint that Michael Yang is indeed…pero sa ngayon, wala kaming makitang ebidensiya,” he said.
Aquino also shed light on the 2004 drug raid that revealed the clandestine shabu laboratory in Davao City. He said the operation, dubbed “Coplan Crystal Gold”, was conducted by PDEA and the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.
At no point during the operation, he said, was the name “Michael Yang” included or even floated in the target list.
Asked why Acierto would link Yang to illegal drugs, he said: “I think somebody is behind here kung bakit ginagawa ni Colonel Acierto ito…Siguro para sirain ang gobyerno, sirain si Presidente, siraan kami, sirain ang PNP.”
‘WHO IS ALLAN LIM?’
He also said a certain Allan Lim, whom Acierto said is also linked to Yang’s narcotics ring, was arrested in Cavite sometime in 2003 but was acquitted.
Police General Oscar Albayalde earlier said the PNP has no information on a supposed "Allan Lim" and that Yang and Lim's names are not included in the PNP drug watchlist.
Aquino downplayed photos of Lim and Yang with President Duterte, which were revealed by Acierto.
“When you are being pictured with somebody beside you na isang drug lord o kaya drug pusher, kahit naman ako di ko alam kung sino ‘yung tumatabi sa akin at nagpapa-picture. It could be a drug lord, it could be a killer, it could be a drug pusher. ‘Yung sinasabi ni Acierto na nagpapa-picture sila Lim and Yang, it could be normal. Kahit sino nakakatabi mo at nagpapa-picture sa iyo,” he said.
Since taking power in July 2016, Duterte has made his crackdown on drug users and dealers the focal point of his administration. However, he recently admitted that "things have worsened" in the government's anti-narcotics drive and that police officers "are at the brink of surrendering."
Authorities earlier seized P1.8 billion worth of shabu at the capital's port, another P1.1-billion meth haul in Muntinlupa, and millions of pesos worth of "floating cocaine" bricks retrieved on and off shore in different parts of the country.
For Panelo, he said the worsening narcotics situation could be because criminals are getting better at wrongdoing. "Gumagaling ang mga kalaban."
"What is important is - nahuhuli natin," he added.