Duterte to police, military: Why is Acierto still alive?

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte made a veiled threat against ex-cop Eduardo Acierto, a few days after Acierto publicly claimed the Chief Executive ignored an intelligence report linking his former adviser Michael Yang to illegal drugs.

On Tuesday, March 26, Duterte told the nation not to believe Acierto's claims. He asked the military and police why the dismissed cop was still alive.

"Huwag kayo maniwala dito, lalo na si Acierto. Tanong ko 'yung military and police, bakit buhay pa 'yung putanginang 'yan?" said Duterte in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, during the turnover of social welfare department grants.

(Don't believe this, especially Acierto. Let me ask the military and police, why is that son of a bitch still alive?)

Earlier that day, the Philippine National Police (PNP) urged Acierto to report threats to his life, promising to treat him fairly and give him protection if necessary.

Acierto has been in hiding since October 2018, when Duterte released a supposed intelligence report alleging that the anti-drugs operative was into the "recycling" of drugs, extortion of Chinese nationals, and other corrupt activities.

On Sunday, March 24, Acierto showed select reporters documents to prove Duterte and the PNP chose not to act on intelligence that Yang and another Chinese national, Allan Lim, are involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino confirmed that such a report was submitted to Malacañang.

Acierto's credibility

Duterte attacked Acierto's credibility, calling him corrupt and in bed with communists. He said Acierto was dismissed for supposedly procuring rifles for the PNP and then giving them to the New People's Army.

The Ombudsman ordered Acierto's dismissal in 2015 over an anomalous deal between the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office, where he belonged at the time, and Werfast, a courier company tapped to deliver firearms licenses cards. But the Court of Appeals reversed it and ordered his reinstatement.

The Ombudsman also ordered his dismissal over the rifles issue, which was enforced in August 2018.

Duterte also brought up Acierto's alleged involvement in the murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. 

"Alam ko siya na corrupt. Pati 'yung Koreanong pinatay doon sa Crame, siya 'yun. 'Tangina itong Aciertong ito (I know him to be corrupt. Even the Korean killed in Crame, it was him. This son of a bitch Acierto)," said Duterte.

Acierto was officer-in-charge of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drug Group in early 2017 when Jee was killed, but he denied involvement and claimed his role was merely administrative.

Absolving Yang

The President devoted some time in his speech to vouching for Yang's innocence.

"Michael Yang is always with Premier (Wang Yi) of China. Everytime he goes here, Yang is there.... Would they allow Yang to be there if [he] was into drugs?" said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.

Wang Yi is China's foreign minister. The Chinese Premier is Li Keqiang.

Duterte spoke highly of Yang's businesses, saying they helped provide jobs in Davao City.

"Si Michael Yang, 1999, pumunta dito nagpermiso 'yan. Ang kasama niya si Randy Usman, taga-Lanao pinakilala sa akin. Gusto pumasok dito, pabili ng cellphone, consign lang maski P10 a day. Nagtayo siya ng DCLA na mura, para may trabaho," said Duterte.

(Michael Yang went here in 1999 to ask for permission. He was with Randy Usman, from Lanao, he was introduced to me. He wanted to come in here to sell cellphones, on consignment, even for just P10 a day. He put up a DCLA mall, which was cheap, to create jobs.)

Earlier on Tuesday, Malacañang said Acierto's claims were not enough to shake Duterte's "trust and confidence" in Yang. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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