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House to summon ex- Duterte adviser on P3 billion drug bust

Delon Porcalla – The Philippine Star , May 13, 2024

Michael Yang also linked to Pharmally scandal

MANILA, Philippines — A House of Representatives panel will invite former president Rodrigo Duterte’s economic adviser to a hearing on the 2023 seizure of illegal drugs worth P3 billion in Mexico, Pampanga.

Michael Yang – reputed to be a close friend of Duterte – will be invited by the House committee on dangerous drugs after Yang’s name cropped up in one of their hearings wherein he is suspected of being a drug trafficker, Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said yesterday.

Yang has also been linked to the Pharmally Pharmaceutical scandal, in which he allegedly brokered an P8-billion deal for the procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies between the government and the company.

On May 8, the Barbers panel found that Yang’s interpreter Lincoln Ong – another figure in the Pharmally scandal – is an incorporator of a firm with alleged links to other companies including Empire 999.

Empire 999 owns the Pampanga warehouse that stored the seized illegal drugs.

The company is owned by Chinese nationals who also reportedly owned other shell companies together with persons previously linked to anomalous activities under the previous administration.

Most of the incorporators of different companies were Chinese who presented fake Philippine documents to make it appear they were Filipinos, the House probe found.

Rep. Dan Fernandez, who chairs the public order panel, had moved to invite Yang to the next hearing after public accounts panel chair Rep. Joseph Paduano presented Yang’s links to Ong.

What started as a drug bust in Mexico, Pampanga turned out to be a “national security concern as these personalities and companies acquired real properties all over the country using fictitious documents,” Barbers said.

“This matter has now gone from a simple illegal drug smuggling to a national security concern. We need to establish the link between these companies and Michael Yang, the financier of Pharmally. It is not as simple as it seems,” he noted.

Pharmally cornered billions of pesos in alleged favored contracts with the DBM-Procurement Service, then headed by Lloyd Christopher Lao, to supply medical needs during the pandemic, Barbers recalled.

Without financial capacity, Ong revealed that the acquisition of supplies abroad was financed by Yang, he added.

The ombudsman recently ordered the filing of graft cases against Lao and former health secretary Francisco Duque III for the alleged irregular transfer of over P41 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 supplies in 2020.

“These personalities and their interests are so intertwined and intricately woven in an elaborate multi-layered company structure that resembles a maze deliberately designed to avoid detection and ultimate liability in case the scheme is discovered,” Barbers said.

“The activities of the other companies have not been unearthed yet but the incorporators have gone into hiding already and have started disposing their assets. There is more than meets the eye. We intend to get to the bottom of this issue in order to find out if indeed the drug bust is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Yang’s connection to illegal drug activities “is no surprise,” Barbers said.

He recalled that Yang was named by a top Philippine National Police official in the past administration as “one on top of the drug trade.”

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