President Rodrigo Duterte defended his two Filipino-Chinese friends from a Senate investigation over overpriced face masks and face shields procured by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
In his public address Tuesday morning, Duterte defended his former economic adviser Michael Yang and Christopher Lloyd Lao, the former chief of the PS-DBM.
Yang’s name floated in a Senate investigation last week after he was seen on RTVM video showing the Chinese businessman and officials of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. meeting President Duterte in Davao in 2017.
“Michael Yang has been in business for 20 years. He started in Davao. I don’t get money from him,” Duterte said.
“He’s not the Chinese that I supposedly get money from. You disabuse your mind of that… Michael Yang, is a businessman, and all that entered here went through bidding. I thought we were inviting investors? That’s why I went to China several times to ask them to help us. Investments. They poured in their money here,” he said.
Yang had also been previously linked to illegal drugs.
Aside from Yang, Duterte also shielded Lao from questions about his appointment to the DBM.
Lao, who hails from Davao City and was appointed to various offices in the government, was the former head of the PS-DBM which purchased allegedly overpriced medical supplies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Duterte told the senators that it is his prerogative to appoint people he knows and trust.
“For the senators, do not question who I appoint to the agencies in the executive branch. I am the sole appointing authority,” he said.
“You do not have the ascendancy to question this executive prerogative. What is wrong with that if I pay my debt of gratitude to a trusted friend?”
“When I was elected, they applied. Of course, I accepted their application. I know them and I trust them and just like I trust all other people appointed from Davao City,” he said.
Lao was questioned by senators on how he secured his former post and who recommended him, to which the former DBM official said no one recommended him and he only applied for the position.
Duterte dared senators to have Lao, Yang or his other appointees jailed if they found any wrongdoing.
Duterte cited Yang’s ties with former Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, as some kind of “sidekick” who even accompanied the ex-envoy in meetings.
Amid allegations that Yang was linked to illegal drugs, Duterte said China, which he considers a friend, would not allow the Philippines to secure deals with Yang if he was involved in illicit drugs.
“If it’s true, Chinese intelligence would warn us ‘Not that. Do not allow him to…’ Because I am a friend of China, they’ll tell me the truth,” he said.
He accused Senator Richard Gordon of sinophobia for focusing on Yang’s alleged involvement in Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., the contractor linked to the alleged overpricing issue.
In a Senate hearing last week, Gordon showed 2017 footage showing Yang and Duterte meeting with officials of Pharmally.
Duterte also lambasted dismissed police officer Eduardo Acierto who linked Yang to the illegal drugs trade.
“Acierto was one of the top kidnappers here in the Philippines. Son of a bitch, don’t fool us. It’s good you were dismissed,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Malacañang dismissed Yang’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade in 2019.