MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte and the anti-drug agency denied anew that his former adviser Michael Yang had ties to the narcotics trade.
The President's defense of Yang, a Chinese businessman, comes as the latter faces a Senate probe for his alleged ties to a firm that supplied alleged overpriced medical goods to the government when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year.
In 2019, former Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, who once served as the officer-in-charge of the now-defunct Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, claimed Yang and a certain Allan Lim were behind the large shabu laboratory discovered in Davao City in 2004.
This was denied by several officials including then Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, then PNP chief Oscar Albayalde and then Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino.
On Monday PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva said Yang was not implicated in any the files on a 2004 operation that discovered a clandestine drug laboratory in Davao City, Duterte's hometown, contrary to Acierto's claim.
"Kahit hagilapin mo sa lahat ‘yan, sir, walang Michael Yang d’yan," Villanueva told Duterte in a taped meeting that aired on Tuesday.
(Even if you get hold of all that, sir, there is no Michael Tan there.)
"Ito namang (this) Senate… if it’s drugs, let it come from the mouth of the PDEA," said Duterte.
The President said Acierto was dismissed by the Ombudsman for the importation and sale of some 1,000 firearms to rebels.
He also alleged Acierto "has so many kidnappings in his record."
"Ang (the) tragedy is you are listening to him. I do not understand why the Senate is listening to a witness by the person of Acierto," said the President.
"You are a fraud actually," he added of Acierto, who had led the defunct Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.
The President first defended Yang as early as 2018, citing the latter’s ties with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
He again defended Yang the following year after Acierto surfaced and linked the former presidential adviser to Allan Lim.
Last week, Yang told members of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he knows a certain Lin Wei Xiong but does not know if he is the same Lin Wei Xiong/Allan Lim tagged in illegal drug activities.
He was then shown several photos of Allan Lim but Yang could not confirm if it was the same Allan Lim that he knew since 2013.
Yang - who has a warrant of arrest from the Senate - skipped a Blue Ribbon hearing on Monday, where he was expected to answer lawmakers' questions about his involvement in the allegedly questionable transactions of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp with the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service.
DUTERTE, YANG, PHARMALLY
The President earlier defended Yang from the Senate probe, saying the businessman was only a "middleman" for Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., which bagged some P8.6 billion in government contracts when it had no track record of delivering quality and reasonably-priced materials.
"Siyempre may negosyo, nakikisali, negosyante e. Ano mang magawa mo?" Duterte said of Yang last week.
(Of course, there's business, he joined, he's a businessman. What can you do?)
"What is clear is that there was this contract, there was delivery, kumpleto lahat, specifications at quantity, quality, and all. Tapos after delivery bago pa nagbayad ang Pilipinas," he added.
(What is clear is there was a contract, there was delivery, specifications were complete in terms of quantity and quality. The Philippines paid after the delivery.)
In his latest taped meeting, Duterte said, "Hindi ko maintindihan 'tong mga senator na 'to. Anyway, there will be a time for reckoning."
(I cannot understand these senators.)
"I plead for fairness sa mga tao na tinatawag ninyo," he told senators. "Pag ganoon ang style n’yo, lahat ng taga-gobyerno, sabihin ko, 'wag na kayong magpunta d'yan sa Senate."
(I plead for fairness to the people you summon. If that is your style, I will tell all government workers, do not go to the Senate.)