Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has dismissed as “old news” the claim of President Duterte that he ties with convicted plunderer Janet Lim-Napoles, as well as his connections with personalities tagged in the illegal drug trade.
“All I heard is old news – the Napoles issue, Mayor Mabilog and Gen. Garbo,” Drilon said in a statement issued after Duterte’s taped address aired on Saturday morning, September 11.
Duterte, in another attempt to get back at senators for investigating the Department of Health’s (DOH) purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, asked Drilon to explain his alleged links to Napoles, who, he claimed, contributed to the lawmaker’s election campaign.
In 2017, Duterte’s former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Napoles implicated Drilon, as well as opposition Sens Leila de Lima and former senator Antonio Trillanes IV in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
Drilon had denied this, saying it was “outright black propaganda” against administration critics.
The President also rehashed in his pre-recorded speech allegations linking Drilon to former Iloilo City mayor Jed Mabilog and retired police general Marcelo Garbo Jr., whom he had linked to illegal drugs.
“Former Mayor Jed Mabilog is a distant relative, being a second cousin. I cannot comprehend why the President wanted me to explain my connection with former Mayor Jed Mabilog and Gen. Garbo,” Drilon responded.
“What I can say is, there is not an iota of evidence that will link my name to illegal drugs,” he pointed out.
Drilon also addressed Duterte on the sale of the old Iloilo City airport to the private sector.
“Who brokered the sale of the old Iloilo airport? It was sold through a public bidding at P1.2 billion set by the Privatization Council then headed by the late Justice Sec. Raul Gonzales in 2007. The government’s Privatization Council at that time can very well explain this to the President,” he said.
Further, he said that the site of the old airport “represents now a booming Iloilo City”, noting that the Iloilo Convention Center was built on it.
“In case the President mentions it in the future, the Ombudsman had investigated it and found no corruption,” Drilon said.
“The only other person who has accused me of corruption is now a fugitive from justice — having been found guilty by the Supreme Court of libel,” he added, referring to former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, who has been convicted of libel for accusing Drilon of corruption in several infrastructure projects.
“I do not have to defend what I did in Iloilo. Mr. President, ask the people of Iloilo,” Drilon told Duterte.
The Senate minority leader maintained that he will not be distracted from finding out anomalies in the government’s disbursement of COVID-19 funds.
“If all these malicious attacks are the price we have to pay for exposing the truth, then be it. We will face them,” he said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon panel is currently probing the reported deficiencies of the DOH in spending COVID-19 response funds, including its purchase of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks and face shields from a foreign firm with links to Duterte’s former economic adviser, Michael Yang.