PDEA chief clears Michael Yang of drug links

Rambo Talabong

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PDEA chief clears Michael Yang of drug links

DUTERTE ALLY. PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva presenting during the House good government and public accountability hearing on Wednesday, September 15.

Rappler screenshot

'If Michael Yang were involved in illegal drugs, he would have long been dead,' says PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Wilkins Villanueva, a longtime Duterte ally, cleared controversial businessman and former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang of drug links on Wednesday, September 15.

After the interpellation of lawmakers in the House good government and public accountability panel hearing, Villanueva was called to give a presentation through Zoom.

After 20 minutes of speaking before lawmakers, Villanueva concluded that Michael Yang was not involved in the illegal drug trade.

[If] Michael Yang is connected sa drugs, matagal nang patay si Michael Yang (If Michael Yang were involved in illegal drugs, he would have long been dead),” said Villanueva.

PDEA chief clears Michael Yang of drug links

To recall, Yang was linked to the illegal drug trade by the wanted veteran anti-drug operator Eduardo Acierto.

In March 2019, Acierto bared that he had a report saying Yang was involved in the illegal drug trade.

In his report, Acierto alleged that Yang was involved in a clandestine drug laboratory that he dismantled in Davao City in 2004. The bust was led by Acierto’s team at the now-defunct Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.

In 2019, Acierto said he forwarded the report to the PDEA and Malacañang, but it was not acted upon.

The allegation resurfaced after Yang was bared to have been the financier and guarantor of the controversial Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, the small firm with low capital that somehow managed to bag P10 billion worth of pandemic deals in the Philippines.

How come Yang is cleared?

Villanueva took aim at the basis of the drug accusations against Yang: Acierto’s report. (READ: Ex-cop Acierto speaks out: Duterte, PNP ignored intel on Michael Yang’s drug links)

Villanueva claimed that he was part of that operation Acierto was referring. However, he did not give details to what his role was at the time.

He said even Duterte, who was then the mayor of Davao City, was also part of the operation.

When he was already President, Duterte, in fact, confirmed receiving reports alleging Yang’s drug links, but he dismissed these as untrue.

“This Michael Yang who is alleged to be a drug addict, Michael Yang, the ambassador of China sleeps in his house. And he was part of the Premier’s entourage…. The allegation is not true. He’s been in Davao for a long time,” Duterte earlier said in October 2018.

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Using PDEA records, Villanueva showed that no Michael Yang was named as a target of their 2004 anti-drug operation of a clandestine drug laboratory in Davao. Acierto’s documents against Yang, however, were dated 2017 – long after the operation that they jointly executed.

He also flashed a report by the Philippine National Police – Directorate for Intelligence clearing Yang of illegal drug links.

The report, dated March 28, 2019, was produced after Acierto made the allegations against Yang earlier that same month.

According to Villanueva, Acierto was making a “desperate” attempt to clear his name, after he was tagged in the smuggling of drugs through magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in 2018.

Acierto has been in hiding since March 2019. Yang, meanwhile, has not attended congressional probes on Pharmally, saying his blood pressure shot up amid the controversy. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.