De Lima asks ex-cop to share report on Duterte’s Chinese pals
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima on Wednesday urged dismissed police official Eduardo Acierto to make public his report that linked two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Chinese associates to illegal drugs, saying it would show the Chief Executive’s “real involvement in the drug trade in the country.”
At the same time, De Lima slammed the President for threatening the life of Acierto and said the President should explain why former Presidential Economic Adviser Michael Yang and a certain Allan Lim were tagged in the illegal drug trade.
Acierto, a veteran antinarcotics officer before his dismissal by the Ombudsman last year over the alleged sale of 1,000 AK-47 assault rifles to communist rebels, said he was implicated in the smuggling of P11 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) into the country in July after he submitted his report to Malacañang, top Philippine National Police officials, and the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“In my investigation, I discovered that our President… is often accompanied by two people deeply involved in illegal drugs,” Acierto told a news conference late Sunday in Manila.
He said he was later accused by authorities in a criminal complaint of involvement in the smuggling of 1 ton of shabu through the Port of Manila instead of the two Chinese men.
Acierto showed pictures of Yang and Lim with the President.
He said he went into hiding because certain people from the “Davao group” had put out a P15-million contract on him after he submitted his report to the Palace.
Davao group refers to President Duterte’s associates in his hometown, Davao City.
Acierto said the people from the group who put out the contract on him could be “police officials” or “politicians.”
Why is he still alive?
In a speech in Koronadal City, South Cotabato province, on Tuesday night, the President sought to discredit Acierto, telling the crowd not to believe the former police official.
He defended Yang, saying he had accompanied China’s premier on a visit to the Philippines and was a businessman who traveled to the country in 1999 to sell Chinese-made cell phones.
The President went on to ask the military and the police why Acierto was still alive.
De Lima said the President should stop suppressing the truth.
“There he goes again. All he knows are threats, excuses and diversion of the issue. Duterte and [former Special Assistant to the President] Bong Go should explain properly the involvement of their close associates Michael Yang and Allan Lim in illegal drugs,” De Lima said in a statement sent from her detention cell at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
She also asked who had hidden Acierto’s report that had been submitted to Malacañang.
“Stop suppressing the truth. No matter how you try to conceal, distort or destroy it, truth has its divine way of striking back. Truth is not afraid of the dark forces,” she added.
People should read report
De Lima, detained on what she calls trumped-up drug charges, said the people should be able to read Acierto’s report.
“The intel report of Acierto, if publicized and verified, will raise questions as to Duterte’s real involvement in the drug trade in the country,” she said.
“Because if Mr. Duterte is really clean, why is he afraid to have Yang and his cohorts investigated? Is he profiting from the drug business or is he the real mastermind?” De Lima said.
She said Acierto’s report was a matter of public interest not just because it links a prominent person to illegal drugs, but also because it “places big doubts as to the real purpose of the government’s war on drugs.”
“It seems to be so easy for Mr. Duterte to set aside Acierto’s intel report because it looks like he’s benefiting from the ‘drug war’ that has been turned into a business by unscrupulous people,” she said.
The President, De Lima said, had been dismissive of the lives of small-time drug users, but he “kowtows” to Chinese drug lords who masquerade as businessmen.
If the President is serious about ridding the country of illegal drugs, he would seek an investigation into Yang’s alleged involvement in the drug trade, she said.
Duty to country
Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV indicated that Acierto’s allegations should not be dismissed outright.
“Like all human beings, (Police Colonel) Acierto is no saint. But like all PMAers, he knows his duty to the country,” said Trillanes, a former rebel soldier.
Acierto graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1989.
Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Senate panel that investigated the shabu smuggling through the Port of Manila, said the former police official should come out of hiding if he had done nothing wrong.
“Why is he in hiding? He should come out if he did nothing wrong. He should surrender. I told him to tell the public what he wants to say if he wants to be helped. But he did not come out, he did not show up,” Gordon said in a statement.
He said he had asked Acierto to become a state witness, but Acierto did not take up the offer.
Gordon said Acierto did not show any evidence when he implicated Yang in the drug trade during a closed session in the Senate.
The PDEA on Wednesday said Yang had never been a target of police operations, contrary to Acierto’s claim.
Derrick Carreon, spokesperson for the PDEA, told reporters that a Michael Yang was listed in the agency’s national drug information system in 2004, but the man was a drug pusher in Pangasinan province.
“So the intelligence Acierto speaks of is not conclusive,” Carreon said.
On Tuesday, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said he received a copy of Acierto’s report last year but he forwarded it to Go in Malacañang.
He said Go told him that “they would conduct an investigation on their own.”
Aquino said he assumed the report had reached the President because he later mentioned it in a speech.
He said the PDEA did an initial investigation, but the probe yielded only the information about the drug pusher in Pangasinan. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and AP
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