^

Opinion

Tit for tat

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the first national police chief under Rodrigo Duterte, conducts a Senate probe that revives stories about Ferdinand Marcos Jr. being a cocaine addict.

Senator Bato presents Jonathan Morales, a former agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, who tells the Senate panel that he signed PDEA documents in 2012 listing BBM and actress Maricel Soriano as subjects of drug surveillance.

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers then announces that the House committee on dangerous drugs, which he chairs, will summon Duterte’s controversial former economic adviser Michael Yang in connection with a P3-billion shabu bust last year in Mexico, Pampanga.

A probe by the previous Senate Blue Ribbon committee headed by Richard Gordon indicated that Yang, long hounded by accusations of drug trafficking, brokered the multibillion-peso sweetheart deal awarded by the Duterte administration to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals at the height of the COVID pandemic, and served as the company’s financier.

Barbers said Yang’s interpreter Lincoln Ong, also implicated in the Pharmally scandal, is an incorporator of Empire 999, the company that owns the Pampanga warehouse where the illegal drugs were found.

Gordon, in his committee report that most senators refused to sign, included Rodrigo Duterte himself among those who should be held accountable for the Pharmally mess. Now that the Dutertes have had a bitter falling out with the Marcos-Romualdez clan, do those senators regret protecting the former president?

The buzz in the Tsinoy community is that Yang skipped town shortly after the Pharmally scandal erupted during the Duterte administration. Barbers’ panel will have no one to grill; on Monday he said other Chinese nationals he wanted to summon were found to have left the country.

*      *      *

Dela Rosa seems unfazed by criticisms of his panel’s probe of the so-called PDEA leaks. He said the surveillance and possible raid on Soriano’s condominium unit in Rockwell did not push through because then president Noynoy Aquino’s executive secretary Paquito Ochoa stopped it.

Ochoa, a partner in the law firm of BBM’s wife Liza Araneta-Marcos, has twice been a no-show at the Senate hearing, the second time ostensibly because he caught COVID. Dela Rosa intends to proceed with his questioning of Ochoa. Last Monday, the probe managed to revive the story about BBM undergoing a drug test during the 2022 campaign, after then president Digong accused an unnamed presidential candidate of being a cokehead.

Senator Bato’s probe also learned from a doctor of St. Luke’s Medical Center, where BBM underwent the drug test, that it was specifically for cocaine and not for other illegal drugs.

BBM has called Jonathan Morales a “professional liar” and a “jukebox” that plays any song for a fee.

The government is also studying its options in dealing with the arrest warrants that the International Criminal Court is expected to issue by midyear for Duterte, and in subsequent batches for Dela Rosa himself and his successor as national police chief, Oscar Albayalde, and possibly for Vice President Sara Duterte.

Dela Rosa, the architect of Oplan Tokhang, was chief enforcer of the most brutal phase of Duterte’s drug war; Albayalde carried out Oplan Double Barrel, which focused on bigger drug trafficking suspects.

As this tit for tat becomes even more personal, there’s talk that the Marcos 2.0 administration may revive the accusations of drug smuggling by the ton through the Bureau of Customs in the previous administration.

Testifying at the time at a Senate inquiry led by Antonio Trillanes IV, BOC “fixer” Mark Taguba tagged a Davao-based group in large-scale drug smuggling, initially implicating Duterte’s son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte and Sara Duterte’s husband Mans Carpio in the activities.

Taguba later changed his tune and cleared Paolo Duterte and Carpio. Trillanes’ panel failed to compel Paolo to take off his shirt and prove he has no triad dragon tattoo. Sen. Bong Go took off his shirt in public to show that he has no such tattoo, upping the pressure on Duterte (whether deliberately or inadvertently on the part of Go is uncertain).

Perhaps sometime during the BBM administration, the public will get a glimpse of Paolo Duterte’s back tattoo.

*      *      *

Davao City has already lost at least P500 million (according to the Dutertes) in national budget allocations under the current administration (apart from the P650 million in secret funds withheld by Congress from VP and education chief Sara Duterte).

Meanwhile, local government executives seen to be sympathetic to the Dutertes are also feeling the heat. Last April, Malacañang suspended Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib for 60 days in connection with a case for grave abuse of authority and oppression filed by a provincial board member.

Davao del Norte First District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez said Jubahib was suspended after he rejected a request from Malacañang to call off a Duterte-led rally in Tagum City.

Alvarez himself now faces a House ethics probe for calling on the Armed Forces to withdraw support for President Marcos, for alleged “habitual absences” as congressman and for supposedly making libelous statements against fellow public officials in Davao del Norte.

The Duterte camp has also complained of difficulties in securing rally permits in Bustos, Bulacan, and in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Administrative and criminal complaints are common for local government executives. The speed and gravity of action on the complaints tend to depend on an official’s standing in the current administration.

The latest to get a kick in the behind, courtesy of the Office of the Ombudsman, is Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who allowed the “prayer rally” in the city last Feb. 25 attended by Duterte and sons.

That rally saw Duterte toning down his diatribe against President Marcos, after cursing and calling BBM a drug addict in another rally on Jan. 28 in Davao City.

Rama was the only Cebu mayor who attended the rally at the South Road Properties in Cebu. For this he received praise from Duterte, and is expected to get the clan’s support in his reelection bid in 2025.

The suspended mayor has not mentioned the rally, but lamented that issues against him have been politicized.

For non-partisans, the political warfare opens the doors for wrongdoing in public office to be exposed and penalized, as rivals hurl mud at each other.

vuukle comment

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

RODRIGO DUTERTE

RONALD DELA ROSA

Philstar
x
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Recommended
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with