Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that President Rodrigo Duterte linked a suspected drug pusher to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua. This story has been updated to further clarify why such link was made.
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, October 4, practically cleared a Chinese businessman suspected of involvement in illegal drugs by citing the latter's close ties to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.
The businessman, Michael Yang, was even privileged enough to join the entourage of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, said Duterte in his speech on Thursday, October 4.
The President made the statement in an apparent bid to clear Yang of drug involvement, after the Chief Executive was presented with a "dossier" on the businessman that alleged him to be either a drug addict or a drug pusher.
"Ito raw si Michael Yang na drug addict daw who is – Michael Yang, ang ambassador ng China natutulog diyan sa bahay niya. At saka kasama 'yan sa entourage ni Premier," said the President.
(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.)
"Hindi ‘yan totoo. Matagal na ‘yan sa Davao (The allegation is not true. He's been in Davao for a long time)," the President said.
Duterte said Yang was behind the DCLA stores in Mindanao.
"Nag DCLA 'yan. Lahat ng nagpapautang na Chinese 'yan ang negosyo niya. Kalaking bloke niyan sa – noon pa hindi ngayon. Isang bloke sa Davao, binili niya lahat. Kanya 'yan puro department store," said the President, apparently bolstering Yang's reputation as a businessman.
(He was into DCLA. All the Chinese who needed loans, that was his business. He had such a big block – before, not now. An entire block in Davao, he bought it. He owns all the department stores.)
Duterte said that while he was uncertain on "what game" Yang played amid suspicions about his drug involvement, he dismissed the allegation as "nonsense" and that the Chinese government itself would disprove this.
“Sabihin mo drug addict ah drug pusher. Ngayon lang ‘yan may ilabas na dossier na...expose.... ‘Go ahead,’ sabi ko. And you’d be surprised, bukuhin ka ng Chinese government diyan,” he said.
(You say he is a drug addict, drug pusher – a dossier will be exposed.... "Go ahead," I said. And you’d be surprised. The Chinese government will surprise you.)
Duterte said Yang's apparent closeness to Zhao was an indication that the businessman was not involved in drugs.
"Kasama palagi 'yan ni Ambassador Zhao. Hindi mo rin maloko 'yan eh, military 'yan eh. Yung ambassador natin, military 'yan (He was always with Ambassador Zhao. You can't fool him because he is military. Our ambassador is military)," said Duterte.
He also claimed that Yang dropped in on a Davao City command conference back when Duterte was still a mayor there. Yang supposedly asked Duterte if he wanted to let more investors into the city. Yang supposedly brought two bags full of cellular phones "for consignment."
The then Davao City mayor had allegedly warned Yang to stay out of illegal drugs.
"'Putangina (Son of a bitch), do not fuck with drugs because I will bury you alive.' 'Yun talaga ang warning ko diyan (That was really my warning to him)," said Duterte.
The President, who at the time was addressing members of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, gave assurances he is not protecting any Chinese.
"Huwag kayo magduda sa akin (Don't doubt me). I'm not protecting any Chinese there," he told the military men. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.