Duterte vouches for his former adviser Michael Yang

Published August 31, 2021, 5:50 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Doesn’t the Philippines want investors over?

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang photo)

This was President Duterte’s incredulous reaction to attacks against his former economic adviser Michael Yang, who is being linked to the issue of overpriced medical supplies in the middle of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Michael Yang has been in business here in the Philippines for 20 years. Nag-umpisa ‘yan dito sa Davao. Pumunta sa akin ‘yan (He started in Davao. He went to me),” Duterte said during the pre-recorded “Talk to the People” press briefing on Monday night, which was aired Tuesday morning, Aug. 31.

“Akala ko ba (I thought) we are inviting investors? That’s why I went to China several times to ask them to help us. Investments, iyong pera nila ibuhos nila dito para magkaroon tayo (They pour their money here so that we’ll have projects),” he said.

“Itong Michael Yang na ito kasama palagi kung makipagkita sa akin si [Chinese] Ambassador, ‘yung the previous one? Si Zhao [Jianhua], ‘yung na-transfer ngayon sa Indonesia (This Michael Yang always accompanies the Ambassador, the previous one? Zhao, the one who transferred to Indonesia),” the President noted.

Duterte suggests that the association between Yang and Zhang belies allegations that the businessman is involved in shenanigans, including the “drug lord” claims by former Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Illegal Drugs Group chief Eduardo Acierto some two years ago.

“Kaya bakit ako magduda? Bakit ako magsabi na drug lord siya? Si Zhao ‘pag nagpunta ng Davao, doon natutulog sa bahay niya [Yang] (So why would I have doubts? Why would I say that he is a drug lord? Whenever Zhao goes to Davao, he sleeps over at his house),” he said.

Yang is in the news lately for his alleged connection with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a local company that was awarded pandemic response contracts worth nearly P8.68 billion in 2020.

The Senate reporteldy intends to hold a public inquiry on the pricey pandemic deals.

According to Duterte, Yang was a cellphone merchant in Davao who slowly grew his business by offering installment payments on his items.

“Diyan ‘yan siya nag-umpisa. After three years, nag-expand. Iyong tindahan niya halos kalahati — kalahating bloke na. Oh kalahating bloke sa China Town. Department store niya ‘yan. Tapos magpunta ako sa China, pinapakilala ako nitong mga ‘to at lahat (That’s where he started. It expanded after three years. His block covered half a street block. Half a street block in China Town. That’s his department store. And when I visited China, they’re the ones who introduced me to the people there).”

Duterte also said that he would’ve already received warning from Chinese intelligence had Yang been involved in shady stuff.

“Kasi kaibigan ako ng China, sasabihin sa akin ang totoo (Since China is my friend, they will tell me the truth),” he said.