Drug probe resource persons cited for lying

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Drug probe resource persons cited for lying
Ex-PDEA agent Jonathan Morales
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — A Senate panel cited in contempt two of its resource persons for not telling the truth in the so-called Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) document leaks that allegedly link President Marcos and a veteran actress to illegal drugs.

At yesterday’s Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs public hearing, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa cited in contempt former PDEA agent Jonathan Morales and former National Police Commission staff Eric Santiago for lying.

Dela Rosa, who chairs the panel, got irked after Santiago admitted he just fooled Morales and another resource person, Romeo Marquez, into believing there were efforts to silence Morales through businessman James Kumar.

Santiago said he deliberately gave fabricated information so he could be invited to the Senate as a resource person. He added that he did not intend to fool the Senate but only Morales and Marquez when he fabricated information during their phone conversations.

“Forgive me, I never expect that you will believe the lies I fed them,” Santiago explained.

Dela Rosa ordered to have Santiago detained, adding that he has a concurring vote from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

“With the chairman of this committee I will cite you in contempt for lying… hearing none, you are hereby cited in contempt,” Dela Rosa said as he banged the gavel. “Take custody of this person. You will fool us.”

After the incident, Estrada also moved to cite Morales in contempt for being evasive in answering questions on his admission as a PDEA agent.

“I am asking you if you misrepresented yourself when you answered the question, have you ever been separated from the service and your answer was ‘No’,” Estrada said.

“I wanted to question him but all the answers of agent Morales are lies. What can we gain from this polluted resource person?” he added.

Also during yesterday’s public hearing, former executive secretary Pacquito Ochoa refuted Morales’ allegations that he ordered a stop to the operation against personalities who allegedly use illegal drugs.

Ochoa said he did not know former PDEA assistant secretary Carlos Gadapan, who allegedly gave the order to Morales based on Ochoa’s directive.

“I don’t even know him and I don’t recall any occasion that we have met or even talked. So, I completely deny that I have made those instructions as alleged,” Ochoa said.

Public apology

Seemingly exasperated by the Senate’s ongoing “PDEA leaks” probe, some members of the House of Representatives did not hold back their criticisms, with one even labeling the hearings as “in aid of election.”

“The hearing is clear that it is no longer in aid of legislation, but in aid of election. Its aim is only to besmirch and trample our President… It is a waste of people’s money and the Senate’s time,” Manila 3rd District Rep. Joel Chua said at yesterday’s press conference in the House.

Chua did not elaborate his “in aid of election” remark, but appeared to be referring to Dela Rosa, who chaired the panel that conducted its fourth hearing yesterday on the purported leaked PDEA documents that allegedly implicated Marcos and other personalities, including actress Maricel Soriano, in illegal drug activities.

House Assistant Majority Leader and Zambales 1st District Rep. Jay Khonghun urged Dela Rosa to issue a public apology to the President, if the investigation fails to substantiate its claims.

“If the hearing does not prove anything, then I urge them to issue their apologies to the President because they are dragging his name to an issue that he has nothing to do with,” Khonghun said.

Expressing bewilderment over the prolonged Senate probe, Deputy Speaker and Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez raised concerns about the allocation of resources for an investigation that lacks substance.

He emphasized the importance of trusting government and private institutions, highlighting the repeated assertions from them that the accusations against the President hold no truth.

Suarez pointed out inconsistencies in the statements of Morales, the lone witness, and raised doubts about his credibility. He also lamented the implications of dragging private individuals into the controversy, emphasizing that they have no involvement in the alleged wrongdoing.

He urged that evidence be presented before implicating individuals in the probe.

Meanwhile, Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores warned of the potential threat to both the integrity of the President and the Senate as an institution.

“What’s being threatened right now is not just the integrity of the President, but also the integrity of the Senate as a body because they keep on holding investigations like that,” Flores pointed out.

He criticized the continuous conduct of hearings despite warnings from other senators to proceed with caution, particularly in light of emerging information.

Flores again likened the PDEA leaks probe to a circus, emphasizing the need to avoid turning it into a spectacle.

“And again, I said this before, if you hold the circus, you’ll naturally bring in the clowns,” Flores added.

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