Lawmakers critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday called for a probe into a fired police official’s allegations that one of the leader’s ex-advisers was involved in the narcotics trade.
Duterte’s signature policy is an internationally-condemned crackdown on drugs that has killed thousands, and the claim has led opponents to question his intentions.
“If you really hate illegal drugs, drug users and pushers, prove it now Mr. Duterte and… investigate,” said Senator Leila De Lima, who is behind bars on charges she says are politically motivated.
The allegations surfaced this week after ex-police colonel Eduardo Acierto told reporters he alerted his superiors in 2017 to warn Duterte about the adviser.
But instead of acknowledgment of the warning, Acierto said he found himself facing accusations of involvement in the drug trade.
Duterte and other top officials have fiercely refuted the drug allegation, saying the former adviser – a Chinese businessman – has no narcotics ties and Acierto is a disgraced cop with an agenda.
Acierto was fired last year over 2015 criminal charges alleging he was among police who illegally issued licenses for guns that ended up in the hands of communist rebels.
Acierto told journalists his work revealed that the ex-economic adviser to Duterte was involved in a clandestine methamphetamines laboratory that authorities raided in the southern city of Davao in 2004.
The businessman was “mainly responsible in facilitating the importation and transshipment” of the illegal drugs, according to Acierto who also presented to reporters photos of Duterte with the ex-adviser and another Chinese man he accused of drug links.
Long before his bloody war on drugs began, Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership was marked by charisma and violence. Learn more about his rise — and his cult-like following — with The @frontlinePBS Dispatch: https://t.co/ji8ZyjH14S pic.twitter.com/5zFStEw3La
— PBS (@PBS) March 26, 2019
“I discovered that our president, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, is always in the company of two people with serious involvement in illegal drugs,” Acierto said.
Within a year of filing the report about the adviser, the ex-officer said he was accused of helping a large shipment of methamphetamine enter the country. He said he now lives in hiding and fears for his life.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Aaron Aquino said on Monday he received the report but he and the national police chief cleared the businessman of drug links.
‘A Glaring Irony’
On Tuesday, Duterte said he has known the former adviser – a Chinese national – since 1999. He owns retail businesses in the president’s hometown of Davao.
“What if I ask the military and the police: why is this son of a whore still alive,” Duterte said in a speech late Tuesday, referring to the ex-officer who he also branded “corrupt.”
On Wednesday, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan told AFP he backed calls for an investigation into Acierto’s allegations.
“There are several troubling questions needing answers,” he said. “A Chinese national and presidential adviser with very close ties to (the presidential palace) being linked to the drug trade is a very serious matter.”
Opposition congressman Gary Alejano also said Acierto’s allegations put into question Duterte’s anti-drug stance.
“This is a glaring irony,” he added.
Police say they have killed 5,281 drug suspects or dealers who fought back against arrest as part of the campaign Duterte launched shortly after taking power in mid-2016.
Right groups say the number is at least triple that and could amount to crimes against humanity.
More on the Subject
Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has been on a roll in the last couple of weeks, “joking” about using marijuana to stay awake, calling the country’s bishops “useless fools” that should be “killed,” and announcing plans to create a “death squad”countering the communist rebels’ death squads known as “sparrow units.”