MANILA - The military's star witness against communist rebels on Tuesday claimed that his inclusion in President Rodrigo Duterte's narcolist was part of a "covert operation" in 2016.
Jeffrey "Ka Eric" Celiz previously worked as the spokesperson of former Iloilo Mayor Jed Mabilog, an alleged "narcopolitician" in Visayas.
"My inclusion in the narcolist was part of a government project. Matagal po akong naging intel operative," Celiz said during a Senate hearing.
"I was included in that list because I was part of the government's project para lansagin ang sindikato ng droga sa Iloilo (to bait the drug syndicate in Iloilo)," he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, questioned why Celiz was chosen as an intelligence operative to infiltrate the camp of alleged illegal drug groups.
"Bakit ka kailangan isali sa narcolist? Anong cover ang pinupursue ng gobyerno para sa iyo?" said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief.
(Why were you included in the narcolist? What cover was the government pursuing for you?)
"You've never been an addict.. How could you pass off as a drug user?" he said.
Celiz said he had a personal relationship with the Odicta family, an suspected drug lord in his home province Iloilo.
"Personal po kaming kilala nila Boyet Odicta nung maliliit pa kami. The project was about them," he said.
Some militant groups earlier questioned Celiz's credibility as a witness who has been red-tagging several activists, saying the former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) member may have brokered a deal with the government after he was identified as a narcopolitician in 2016.
"Nilalabas po yan ng CPP-NPA to discredit me," he said.
(The CPP-NPA released that to discredit me.)
"My inclusion to the narcolist of the President does not negate all my truthful statements about the CPP-NPA," he said.
Among the allegations Celiz made was that several party-list groups and civic group organizations are fronts of the communist movement.
He also accused some DPWH personnel of working with the New Peoples Army (NPA) in identifying which infrastructure projects in the countryside should be spared from attacks in exchange for millions of pesos.
Lacson said it would be best if Celiz and his military handlers would submit documentary evidence to the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security to back his allegations.