Gordon: Panel did not block report on Yang's alleged links to drug trade

Franco Luna, Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Gordon: Panel did not block report on Yang's alleged links to drug trade
Sen. Richard Gordon questions former presidential economic adviser Micheal Yang through an interpreter at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing held on November 4, 2021.
Screengrab / Senate of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Richard Gordon on Monday said he did not block the release of a former cop's report on former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang's alleged links to the illegal drug trade.

The senator's office released the statement in response to former anti-drug cop Eduardo Acierto, who has resurfaced to make his first public statement since 2019. In a recorded video, he asked Gordon and other members of the blue ribbon panel to publish his report on Yang and alleged drug personality Allan Lim amid the ongoing Pharmally probe.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in September told a House panel that Yang is not linked to illegal drugs and would have long been dead if he were.

READ: Anti-drug cop Eduardo Acierto resurfaces, challenges Gordon to bare intel report

Gordon also objected to the former police officer's claim that the government's irregular deals with the controversial Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a firm reportedly backed by Yang, could have been avoided if senators and other officials had acted on Acierto's report in 2018.

"If they didn’t hide my report, Pharmally’s corruption would not happen [and] the lives of healthcare workers wouldn’t be put at risk because of delayed, substandard face masks and face shields," Acierto said.

"That is not accurate," Gordon's office said. "No report or testimony was ever blocked from being displayed to the public."

September 17 hearing

However, in a September 17 hearing, Gordon referenced the report and implied that he chose not to show it to the public.

“You know, Mr. President, I was even generous towards you. Acierto came here, he told me that you, Yang, and Allan Lim were involved...he even showed us a picture,”  he said in Filipino, addressing Duterte directly.

“Did I show that [photo to the public?] During our 2018 investigation? Those billions of pesos that the PNP allowed to be lost in Cavite?”

Gordon earlier sought the filing of charges against Acierto.

Since then, his relationship with Duterte has changed drastically, with the two trading barbs since the senator opened an inquiry into the administration's spending of pandemic funds.

The senator's staff also confirmed that Acierto told the Senate panel through an emissary that he is now "more than willing" to testify on Yang’s alleged drug involvement when it resumes hearings on Pharmally.

"Given the committee’s previous experience with Acierto, however, we strongly suggest that the former police officer execute and submit an affidavit for further scrutiny before a grant of his request to appear in this or in another investigation is given due consideration," the statement reads.

A blue ribbon committee report released in 2018 identifies Acierto as the supposed "linchpin" in the shabu shipments that the panel investigated for months. Some members of the committee called on the PNP and PDEA to arrest several personalities involved, including Acierto, a recommendation the latter urged Gordon to rescind.

A slew of allegations and cases have been hurled at Acierto since he submitted his report to several officials in 2018. He categorically denied them all in his latest video.

"I am innocent in this. I did my job and investigated."

He also claimed that those seeking to “hide the truth” persist in their attempts to find him and assassinate him.

Malacañang: Acierto can't be trusted

Palace spokesman Harry Roque, during his regular briefing on Monday, maintained that Acierto could not be trusted.

"The president said during one of his 'talks to the people' that Acierto is a liar and we should not believe in him," he said. "That came from the mouth of the president himself. That is the view of the president."

Last September, Duterte defended his former economic adviser, saying he has been doing business in the Philippines for 20 years.

"I thought we were trying to invite everybody to do business in the Philippines? That's what happened. The key here is Yang. Yang is known to me, I admit it," Duterte said in a speech on September 8.

"And it was Yang whom I requested to...lay the ground or do the legwork of my going to China and getting into a new deal and new relations," he added.

Duterte also recently questioned senators' recent references to Acierto's report amid the Pharmally probe, saying the former police officer was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman twice. He said the former police officer "was connected with a unit that had something to do with drugs." 

The president at the time claimed Gordon had "forever lost his credibility" by using evidence submitted by ex-cops who are now alleged criminals.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima two days later released a statement blasting Duterte for his "double standards," on witness credibility, citing the Department of Justice’s use of criminal convicts as witnesses in the drug cases filed against her.

De Lima has been calling for the public release of Acierto's report since 2019.

What's in the report?

Acierto’s intelligence report first released in 2018, a copy of which was also obtained by Philstar.com, refers to Lim and Yang as “persons of interest involved in drug trafficking operations frequently seen in the company of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

Along with a matrix linking the two to illegal drug operations in Cagayan de Oro and General Santos, the report also includes numerous references to a 2004 operation in Dumoy, Davao City that resulted in a dismantled “shabu clandestine laboratory” supposedly linked to Yang, then a Chinese businessman credited with putting up the Davao City Los Amigos mall when Duterte was mayor.

The documents also allege that Lim, who was arrested in a separate raid on a “shabu clandestine laboratory” in Cavite in 2003, was the subject of an investigation by the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group for his alleged involvement in the ransom of kidnapped foreign nationals.

"Johnson Chua, Michael Yang, and Allan Lim have formed a group to solidify their illegal drug business focusing on establishing legitimate businesses to cover their illegal operations," the report reads.

"They work with Johnson Chua based in Macau that (sic.) handles their operation in Singapore, Macau, and Mainland China, while Michael Yang and Allan Lim are based here in the Philippines."

Acierto in his video claimed that when his group, then the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, coordinated with the local government unit before the operation, then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ordered the officers to burn down the laboratory.

"You already knew, President Duterte, that we had a search warrant. Your order was to burn the laboratory, but I didn’t consent. Don’t deny this, because we let you know before we began the raid," Acierto said in the video.

"During the investigations, Michael Yang was reported to be an associate of Johnson Chua who owned and financed illegal drug manufacturing that [was]  based in the Mindanao area," his 2018 report also reads.

An "initial profile of drug personality" also filed by Acierto when he was still with the police anti-drug task force lists Yang as being affiliated with the Johnson Chua and Wen Li Chen Drug Trafficking Syndicates as a "co-leader."

Yang in recent Senate hearings denied links to the drug trade.

In a 2019 interview with ANC, Palace spokesperson and presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo claimed that the Michael Yang referenced in the report was not the same Michael Yang who served as President Duterte’s former economic advisor.

Acierto said in his report that "unfortunately, there was no feedback received" when he submitted his findings to the PNP and PDEA in 2017. — with a report from Alexis Romero/The STAR

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