war on drugs

Lawmakers invite Duterte drug war whistleblowers to attend House probe

Jairo Bolledo

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Lawmakers invite Duterte drug war whistleblowers to attend House probe

JUSTICE. Families of drug war victims continue to seek justice for their loved ones.

Errol Almario/Rappler

A House committee also orders Duterte's former presidential adviser Michael Yang to explain his absence from Wednesday's hearing, which zeroed in on the massive drug haul in Central Luzon

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers have invited high-profile whistleblowers against former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war to attend a House inquiry, in hopes to shed light on the massive illegal narcotics bust in Central Luzon.

The House committee on dangerous drugs on Wednesday, May 22, approved a motion to send invitations to self-confessed former Davao Death Squad (DDS) member Arturo Lascañas, and former anti-drug cop Eduardo Acierto.

The congressional investigation zeroes into the multi-billion-pesos of shabu seized in Mabalacat, Pampanga and Subic Bay in different occasions.

Duterte’s former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang did not attend Wednesday’s hearing even though he was invited, prompting the committee to issue a show-cause order against him.

The order compels Yang to formally explain why he failed to show up during this week’s hearing.

Why the invitations matter

The House’s invitation to the likes of Lascañas and Acierto may bring headache to Mr. Duterte and Yang in the event the two whistleblowers implicate them to the controversy.

Lascañas already said in his affidavit sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that Duterte and his businessmen friends were “involved in the illegal drug trade,” although that was specifically in Davao City.

Citing his “personal knowledge and experience” as a Davao Death Squad member during Duterte’s time as Davao City mayor, Lascañas said Duterte was “in partnership with Michael Yang and Sammy Uy” in the drug trade. 

Former anti-drug cop Acierto, meanwhile, presented documents in 2017 detailing the supposed links of Yang and another Chinese national Allan Lim to illegal drugs.

Acierto had also accused Duterte and the Philippine National Police of ignoring his intelligence report, adding that the former president and the police allegedly blocked further probe into Yang.

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Yang was also implicated in a pandemic-era scandal that exposed anomalies in connection with the multi-billion-peso COVID-19 contracts awarded by the Duterte administration to Pharmally, a small company with a mere P625,000-capital. A report by Rappler revealed that Yang has links to Pharmally.

House doubles down on probe vs Duterte

For the first time since the drug war was launched in 2016, the House has launched a probe into the drug-related killings during Duterte’s time as president.

During a hearing conducted by the human rights panel on Tuesday, May 21, lawmakers grilled officials tagged in the drug war, including former justice secretary and now-Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra.

The developments in the lower chamber come on the heels of the ICC probe into the drug war, including the killings allegedly carried out by the DDS.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s next move could be the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons against the subjects of the court’s investigation. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.