MANILA (UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday apologized over the inclusion of several personalities in his controversial drug matrix, and cleared some of those he earlier tagged as officials linked to the drug trade.
Duterte earlier revealed a drug matrix linking Senator Leila de Lima, former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, and several others to the illegal drug trade.
But over a month since the release of the matrix, Duterte said there were people who should not have been included in the drug matrix.
He said former Pangasinan governor and now Rep. Amado Espino, Francisco’s brother dismissed Pangasinan provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, and Urbiztondo board member Raul Sison should not have been included in the matrix.
“I think somehow we were negligent in counter-checking during the first report. So to Espino and to Sison, at kay Baraan - yung kapatid, huwag yung undersecretary dahil sabit talaga yun - I would like to apologize to you publicly, and I would say now, I’m very sorry,” Duterte said in a speech after his visit at a seized shabu laboratory in Arayat, Pampanga.
“But trabaho ko iyan, it is part of my territory. I cannot be perfect and sometimes you are correct when you say that life is never fair,” he added.
Duterte noted that Espino and Rafael Baraan were involved in a separate black sand mining case now being heard by the Sandiganbayan, but he said he failed to connect Espino and Rafael to the illegal drug trade even after a number of reviews.
"Ang problema dito kay [Rafael] Baraan, yung kapatid, pati Governor Espino, ilang report na, pabalik-balik, I had it revalidated four times. Kapag tinignan ko na lahat kagabi... may putol. There is a gap there that cannot be explained why his name was there. I think kung meron man, it’s either intriga, tsismis, or it was purposely done without really checking the validity," Duterte said.
“Kung ang pag-usapan black sand mining, may probable cause, but to stretch it further to involve them [to the illegal drug trade], pinag-aralan ko talaga ng ilang gabi… ginaganon-ganon ko hindi ko makita ang connection, it is not really very clear to me."
Despite the apology over the supposed errors, Duterte maintained that former Francisco and her fierce enemy, De Lima, are involved in the illicit drug trade.
De Lima and Francisco have both denied the allegations.
And even if he has admitted that the names of Espino, Rafael, and Sison should not have been included in the matrix, Duterte maintained "nothing went wrong."
"Everybody was correct, but the focusing is -- there were lapses... They probably hit a snag somewhere and they stopped," he said.
"I take responsibility, ako ang nag announce eh."
Espino said, he was "humbled" by Duterte's pronouncement clearing him of the allegations.
"Let me reassure the president of my sincere and relentless support on his anti-drug campaign which had always been my campaign message for the past six elections," he said in a statement.