Duterte did not link Chinese envoy to 'drug pusher,' Palace clarifies
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 5, 2018 - 1:15pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 3:10 p.m.) — Malacañang on Friday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte did not link Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to a wealthy Chinese businessman supposedly involved in illegal drugs.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque called for a press conference after reports surfaced about the Chinese envoy's supposed ties to businessman Michael Yang, a suspected drug pusher.

"I think it’s very clear that what the president meant to say was number one — he cannot believe that Micheal Yang is involved in the drug trade and number two — because he was saying he could not believe that Michael Yang is involved in the drug trade, the report that the president linked the Chinese ambassador to a drug lord is obviously false," Roque said.

A clip of the speech where Duterte supposedly linked Zhao to Yang was played before Roque made the clarification.

In his speech before the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association on Thursday night, Duterte said Yang joined the entourage of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when the latter visited the country.

The president indicated that Yang could not have been involved in illegal drugs due to his close ties with the Chinese ambassador.

"That is not true. He has been in Davao for a long time," Duterte said in Filipino.

He added that Yang could not have fooled Zhao if the allegations were true.

"He was always with Ambassador Zhao. You cannot fool him, he is military," the president said.

The Malacañang spokesman called on media organizations that reported that Duterte linked the Chinese envoy to the illegal drug trade to correct their stories as it might affect the relationship between the two countries.

"The story was based on a speech which we had just seen their interpretation of what the president meant, of course, has no basis... It has in turn been cited by international wire agencies," Roque said.

Roque warned that such reports would have dire consequences to the Philippines and China.

Similar to Roque's remarks, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said there was misrepresentation in the reports linking the Chinese envoy to a drug lord.

"That gives the country, not me, not the president but the country a problem," Cayetano told reporters.

Cayetano said he also reviews the speech and the footage showed that Duterte was defending Yang as there were people destroying the Chinese businessman's reputation.

"So he was using it as a guarantee of how the Chinese government lets people, how they have strict rules that their ambassador cannot pass on shame," the DFA secretary said on Duterte's mention of the Chinese envoy's name during the speech.

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