Duterte defends Michael Yang anew: Only a middleman, no criminal record

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 8)— President Rodrigo Duterte again defended his former economic adviser, Michael Yang, who has been entangled in controversies hounding the government’s procurement of supplies for its COVID-19 response.

Speaking at the PDP-Laban national convention Wednesday, Duterte argued that Yang — who has been linked to the embattled Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation — was only a “middleman” for the Philippine government and a foreign company providing medical goods.

“A Chinese doing business because we were encouraging everybody in the world to come to the Philippines and do business,” Duterte said during the event — where he was also officially endorsed as the ruling party’s vice presidential bet.

“Akala ko ba (I thought) we were trying to invite everybody to do business in the Philippines? Ang key diyan si (The key here is) Yang. Yang is known to me,” he added.

Yang, a Chinese national who has been doing business in Davao City, made headlines due to his alleged ties to Pharmally — the government’s biggest provider of medical supplies amid the coronavirus crisis.

The firm has recently been in the limelight of congressional hearings as lawmakers questioned the government’s purchase of allegedly overpriced face masks, testing kits, and personal protective equipment.

On Tuesday, the Senate issued warrants of arrest against Yang and five Pharmally officials for their failure to attend the chamber’s inquiries. Yang vowed he would be present in the next hearing scheduled on Friday.

Duterte, for his part, vouched for the innocence of his former appointee.

“Wala naman si Michael Yang. He has no manufacturing factory in Davao. Walang record ‘yan. Hindi kriminal ‘yan,” the chief executive said.

[Translation: Michael Yang has no manufacturing factory in Davao. He has no record, he’s not a criminal.]

In the same speech, Duterte also brought up criticisms of the Health department’s handling of pandemic funds highlighted in the Commission on Audit’s report. The President said he would resign if Health Secretary Francisco Duque or officials in the executive department are proven to have engaged in corrupt activities.

“Maski malayo ako sa mga transactions diyan (Even though I’m not directly involved in the transactions), being the President of the executive department and of the country, talagang mananagot ako (I would be responsible),” Duterte said.

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