President Rodrigo Duterte did not link Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to a Davao tycoon allegedly involved in illegal drug trade, the Palace clarified on Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who called for a press briefing, said that some online news sites appeared to have misinterpreted Duterte’s statements.
“I think it’s very clear that what the President meant to say was he cannot believe that Michael Yang is involved in the drug trade. And 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 after playing a clip of Duterte’s speech before members of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. in Malacañang.
In his speech, the President cleared a Davao-based Chinese businessman named Michael Yang who was allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
“They said Michael Yang is a drug addict. The Chinese ambassador sleeps in his house, he’s even part of the entourage of the Chinese Premier,” Duterte told the PMAAAI alumni.
The President added Yang owns Davao City Los Amigos shopping center, saying that Yang’s close ties with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua and Chinese Premier Le Keqiang are proof that the tycoon does not have any record of illegal activities.
“He’s with Ambassador Zhao who is from a military. You can’t fool him. That’s nonsense,” the President said.
News reports, however, misinterpreted Duterte’s statement, saying the President linked the two officials to an alleged drug syndicate.
“That report by Rappler is wrong, false; even malicious. It is also very dangerous because it could possibly endanger the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China,” said Roque, as he called on news site Rappler to be responsible and professional by issuing a clarification.
He said Rappler’s interpretation of Duterte’s speech as seen through their article had absolutely no basis.
“It is only but proper if they have any sense of responsible journalism that they correct their story. It’s important that they correct their story, because their story, in turn, has been cited by international wire agencies,” said Roque.
“Obviously, because it has gone international, it would have dire consequences for the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China,” he said.
Rappler, a news agency banned from entering Malacañang and covering presidential engagements for supposedly being foreign-owned, and other online news sites have already corrected their articles following the clarification from the Palace.
In a related development, Senator Richard Gordon asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to tap expert X-Ray machine operators and experts on drug and other contraband detection.
“The drug war has taken a different tone, not only here but throughout the whole world. The illegal drugs entered the country through heavy equipment at more sophisticated so that even our x-rays – the x-ray technicians should be taught. Nakalusot sa kanila yun e,” Gordon said
Gordon made the proposal in the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the P6.8-billion worth of drugs smuggled inside electronic magnetic lifters shipped into the country through the BOC.
The senator learned from the hearings conducted that the BOC does not have sufficient trained X-ray specialists. He said BOC personnel should get proper training on operating the X-ray machines, analyzing X-ray images, and the latest techniques on drug smuggling and detection of drugs and other contraband, here and abroad.
Testifying before Gordon’s panel, BOC lawyer Ma. Lourdes Mangrobang said the empty magnetic lifters found in Cavite contained illegal drugs. However, her statement was countered by her colleagues, and considered her statement prejudicial to the image of the BOC which undermines the efforts of Commissioner Isidro Lapeña and the present administration.
“She still insisted her assumptions notwithstanding the earlier pronouncement of President Duterte that the reported shabu allegedly contained in magnetic lifters is speculative,” said the BOC.
Gordon noted that the drug war has taken on a different form in all parts of the world. He said drug syndicates are now employing more sophisticated means of smuggling drugs.
“It’s a new war on drugs that we’re fighting and we have to have new weapons. Not only should you upgrade your equipment, you have to have your people trained on how to operate the equipment,” he advised the BOC,” he said.
The BOC also reported that at least 105 container vans were illegally released from the Mindanao Container Terminal (MICT) under the Port of Cagayan De Oro (CDO). The House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua is investigating the illegal release and transportation of the 105 container vans.
It was reported that the release was done through the use of a local Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) crafted by a former BOC official. It was reportedy approved to favor a container yard operator.
The CMO serves as a guideline in the examination of cargoes that were discharged at the sub-port of Tagaloan, Misamis Oriental. The said CMO expressly allows the transfer and release of cargoes by the Mindanao Container Terminal Services Inc., without any liability. He said the transfer will be made to the customs clearance area, a container yard owned and operated by favored operator.
Some brokers have cried foul over the reported procedures introduced by the CMO that resulted to double handling of cargoes before its release from customs. They questioned the need to transfer the container vans to another container yard when it could be done while inside the yard of Mindanao International Container Terminal Services Inc.
“Every transfer and examination of container vans at the container yard (designated examination area) costs a legitimate importer to pay around 7,000 pesos to 8,000 pesos to the container yard operator. Approximately 900 container vans are being released in the MCT on a weekly basis,” they said.
They also disclosed the existing “tara system,” which was also earlier hit by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as the prevaling situation in the BOC.
In a privilege speech, Lacson said Faeldon unearthed the massive “tara system” in the BOC. He said corrupt personnel at the bureau have been receiving payoffs, without hesitation, in order to operate with impunity.
A former chief of the PNP, Lacson said it was too obvious that huge drug shipments were successfully smuggled under their noses through the indispensable participation of Customs officials.
He pointed out that the government’s war on drugs will not succeed without waging another war, which is the war on corruption.