Ex-Duterte adviser Yang shows up at Senate probe with interpreter
MANILA, Philippines — Former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang on Friday showed up at the Senate blue ribbon investigation into the controversial purchase of “overpriced” medical supplies at the height of the pandemic.
The Senate earlier ordered Yang’s arrest after the blue ribbon committee cited him for contempt when he skipped the panel’s previous hearings despite being subpoenaed.
The former economic adviser is accompanied by a Filipino interpreter.
Yang, through his counsel, earlier confirmed he will attend succeeding blue ribbon hearings on the issue and requested that he be allowed the use of an interpreter.
The Senate blue ribbon committee is currently investigating the procurement of “overpriced” personal protective equipment, face masks, and shields made by the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service on behalf of the Department of Health in 2020.
Among the suppliers is Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which bagged government contracts worth over P8.6 billion in 2020 despite being only several months old and having just P625,000 in paid-up capital.
Yang was linked to the controversial procurement after a 2017 video showed him introducing Pharmally officials to President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City.
Five Pharmally officials, who were also ordered arrested by the upper chamber for skipping the committee’s hearings, also surfaced on Friday.
“Finally, the mysterious board and people we have invited have shown up,” committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon said.
During the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, Yang was quizzed by Gordon as to why he needs a translator when he was able to speak with the President.
Gordon showed video clips and photos taken by government media channels, where Yang was introducing several other businesspeople to Duterte, apparently talking to the President in Filipino.
But Senator Risa Hontiveros spotted something else — a businessman who allegedly goes by the name of Allan Lim, who was in the video with Yang and Duterte. It is when Gordon and Hontiveros asked Yang if he knew Allan Lim, an individual implicated by the alleged drug report made by former police Col. Eduardo Acierto.
“Mr. Yang, talking again about the video that the chairman showed, who are the two men to your right in the video, one of them is Zheng Bingqiang, and isn’t the other one Mr. Allan Lim?” Hontiveros asked Yang.
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Yang is saying that the two persons that is Wan Zheng Bingqiang, and the other one is Lin Wei Xiong,” Yang said through his translator.
Hontiveros asked again if Lin is actually Allan Lim, to which Yang said that he only met a certain Lin Wei Xiong and not Allan Lim.
Drug trade links
After this, Gordon then proceeded to show a charge sheet against Allan Lim, that was sourced from the files sent by Acierto.
Acierto in 2019 released reports implicating Yang and Allan Lim as individuals allegedly involved in the drug trade. However, Malacañang cleared Yang, with Duterte saying the Chinese ambassador even sleeps in Yang’s house.
Former presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo was also quoted as saying that even former Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua had cleared Yang.
“Is that Allan Lim, or Wen Li Chen or… is he the same man?” Gordon asked, to which Yang’s translator said Yang does not know. “You’ve been friends with him for 13 years and you don’t know?”
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Yang said that he only knows by the name of Lin Wei Xiong,” Yang’s translator said.
When Yang was shown the picture of Allan Lim’s charge sheet — which contains an entry saying the possible true name of the person is Lin Wei Xiong — Yang said he cannot ascertain because the photo is “very blurred.”
“Mr. Chairman he is saying that the picture is very blurred, he couldn’t confirm,” Yang’s translator said.
“Ayan nakalagay ‘yong pangalan eh, Lin Wei Xiong. Oh eh di kakilala niya,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III quipped.
(The name Lin Wei Xiong is there. So he knows him.)
Yang was invited to appear in the Senate hearing after his name surfaced. At the hearing, Yang said his role was only to introduce Pharmally to the Chinese suppliers.
But Pharmally’s director Linconn Ong said they sought Yang’s help to guarantee to the Chinese suppliers that the company would be able to pay up their dues once the government disburses the funds.
Pharmally president Huang Tzu Yen later admitted that they also sought Yang’s financial assistance.
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