Duterte defends Chinese ex-adviser Yang amid alleged ties to Pharmally

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday defended Chinese businessman and his former economic adviser Michael Yang, even clearing him from involvement in the illegal drug trade amid reports linking him to a company that bagged the bulk of government procurement deals.

Yang’s name floated in a Senate investigation last week after an RTVM video was played showing the Chinese businessman and officials of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. meeting Duterte in Davao in 2017.

“I’ll tell you something. Michael Yang has been in business here in the Philippines for 20 years. Nagumpisa yan dito sa Davao… Hindi yan intsik-intsik na kinukuhanan ko ng pera. You disabuse your mind [of that],” Duterte said in a taped speech aired over state-run PTV on Tuesday.

“Itong si Michael Yang, negosyante, ang karamihan nito pumasok sa bidding sa lahat ng negosyo dito sa Pilipinas. Akala ko ba we are inviting investors? That’s why I went to China several times to ask them to help us. Investments. Yung pera nila ibuhos muna nila dito para magkaroon tayo,” he went on.

“Kung totoo, bubulungan ka ng Chinese intelligence na ‘Wag ‘yan, do not allow him.’ Kasi kaibigan ako ng China, sasabihin sa akin ang totoo kaya ‘di makakapasok ‘yang mga ‘yan sasabihin niyo kung nagdodroga,” Duterte said.

In further defending Yang, Duterte brought up the Chinese businessman’s close ties with former Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.

“Itong Michael Yang na ito, kasama palagi kung makipagkita sa akin si Ambassador, yung the previous yan, si Zhao. Yung natransfer sa Indonesia. Edi tawagin natin. Bakit ako magduda? Bakit ako magsabi ng drug lord sya? Si Zhao pag nagpunta ng Davao, doon natutulog sa bahay nya,” Duterte said.

In 2019, dismissed police officer Eduardo Acierto linked Yang to illegal drugs.

Malacañang had denied Yang’s involvement in the drug trade. Later on, it announced Yang was no longer the President’s economic adviser.

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