Malacañang, PNP clear Michael Yang of drug links

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 26) — Malacañang and the Philippine National Police (PNP) expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte's former economic adviser Michael Yang is not involved in the illegal drug trade despite the allegations of a former anti-narcotics cop.

"As far as the PNP is concerned, Michael Yang is not included in any watch list or investigation of persons with links to illegal drugs... As of this time, walang nakikitang (nothing seen as) involvement ni (of) Michael Yang sa (in) illegal drugs" " PNP Chief Police General Oscar Albayalde said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo also said, "I don't think Michael Yang was ever involved. Otherwise nasa listahan na 'yan o may kaso na 'yan (he's on the list or already has a case)."

President Duterte in October 2018 also said the Davao-based Chinese businessman is not a drug pusher because he has close ties to top Chinese officials.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) meanwhile said the body will take the chief executive's word.

"Kasi matagal na yatang kaibigan ng ating Presidente 'yan (Yang) and knowing him, ibig sabihin alam na alam ni Presidente if he is involved or not," Aquino said.

[Translation: It seems that he has been a longtime friend of our president and know him (Duterte), it means that he knows if he (Yang) is involved or not.]

"Pero (but) outright clearing him it shows he's not involved in illegal drugs," he added.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, however, said they will still validate the claims of veteran anti-drug operative Eduardo Acierto that Yang is deep into the drug trade.

The dismissed cop said he gave a written detailed report to former top cop Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa in December 2017 and PNP Chief Police General Oscar Albayalde in May 2018 on the alleged dealings of Duterte's trusted consultant, but it didn't move forward. He said he also gave copies of the report to Aquino and Senator Richard Gordon.

"Alam ninyo, 27 years ako sa police force. 18 years dito sa anti-illegal drugs operations. Kapag ganun po katagal ang involvement sa isang bagay, may instinct na po kaming mga pulis. Marami akong tanong. Bakit pusher/user ang description niya kay Michael Yang?" Acierto said in a video provided by his camp to Facebook page Now You Know PH on Monday.

Received the report or not?

Albayalde denied there was inaction as he did not receive a copy of the report, adding dela Rosa didn't turn over any report on Yang.

He added Acierto should have acted on the intelligence report and informed his superior since he used to be part of PNP's anti-illegal drugs unit.

Gordon also denied that Acierto informed him of the Chinese businessman's supposed involvement in the drug trade.

"Kung talagang wala siyang kasalanan bakit siya magtatago? Ilang buwan na (If he's really innocent, why will he hide? It's been months)," Gordon said. 

Aquino, however, confirmed he received the report and informed Malacañang through former Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, on the other hand, suggested authorities to look deeper into the accusation to clear the air -- especially since Acierto tagged the President.

Aside from Yang, Acierto named two Chinese nationals surrounding Duterte who are using their legitimate businesses to cover up their drug ties.

"Kung talagang galit si Presidente Duterte sa droga, bakit hindi niya ipinahuli ang mga nasabing taong ito. O pinaimbestigahan man lang. Hindi man ako nagkulang sa pag-submit ng detalyadong report sa mga taong may otoridad na kumilos at magprotekta sa bayan," he said.

[Translation: If President Duterte is indeed mad at drugs, why hasn't he ordered to catch this person? Or even investigate. I submitted a detailed report to officials to act on this in order to protect the country.]

Acierto said his insistence on exposing Yang and the two other foreign nationals has resulted in receiving death threats.

"Ang ginawa ko lang kung tutuusin ay nag-imbestiga ako ng mga matataas na tao na involved sa droga. Ako ngayon ang nalalagay sa alanganin at gustong ipapatay sa halagang 15 million pesos. Aaminin ko na ako'y natakot. Pero walang maidudulot ang takot. Kaya po ako nagsasalita ngayon," he said.

[Translation: What I just did to tell you the truth was to investigate high officials involved in drugs. Now, they want to have me killed at an amount of P15 million. I'll admit I was scared-- but being scared won't get me anywhere. That's why I'm speaking now.] 

Duterte on October 2018 named former S/Supt. Acierto as part of the drug matrix based on an "intelligent network" Quoting the "special report" he recieved, he said Acierto fabricated stories and planted evidence, particularly drugs, which were recycled from previous operations.

Acierto was also identified by the National Bureau of Investigation as one of the "core conspirators" in facilitating the entry of massive drug shipments through concealed magnetic lifters. He was dismissed from service in August over the alleged anomalous procurement of more than 1,000 AK-47 rifles, which reportedly ended up in the hands of the New People's Army.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Joyce Ilas and Triciah Terada contributed to this report.