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House to invite ex-president Duterte adviser in P3-B Pampanga drug bust inquiry

Michael Yang, an economic adviser of former President Rodrigo Duterte, will be invited by the House of Representatives to the next hearing in connection with the P3.8 billion drug bust in Mexico, Pampanga in 2023.

The hearing will be under the Committee on Dangerous Drugs chaired by Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers.

In a statement on Sunday, Barbers said that in a series of hearings, Empire 999, the company that owns the warehouse where the drugs were ordered to be stored, was found to be owned by Chinese nationals who also owned other shell companies together with other personalities who have been previously linked to anomalous activities under the past administration.” 

Barbers said that in a probe, Lincoln Ong, a Pharmally official and an alleged associate of Yang, was found to be an incorporator of a company with links to other companies including Empire 999. 

According to Barbers, based on findings from Public Accounts Chairman Joseph "Caraps" Paduano, Yang was linked to Ong. In order to find out a connection, Public Order Chairman and Laguna congressman Dan Fernandez moved that Yang be invited in the next hearing.

In 2023, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of multiple graft charges against former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao, Pharmally executives, and others over the alleged anomalous procurement of P4 billion worth of RT-PCR COVID-19 test kits.

Barbers said that without financial capacity, Ong revealed that the acquisition of supplies abroad was supposedly financed by Yang.

The Mindanaoan solon said the House investigation established that most of the incorporators of the different companies are actually Chinese nationals who present fake Philippine documents to make it appear that they are Filipinos. 

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

“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. 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”, he surmised.

“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”,  Barbers added.

The congressman maintained, “the connection of alleged drug lord Michael Yang to these drug activities is no surprise. Remember that in the past administration, he was named by a top official of the PNP who was then tasked to investigate illegal drug activities. It was discovered that the one on top of the drug trade was Michael Yang.”

However, Yang was cleared by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency of said claims in 2021.

Yang has denied involvement with Pharmally, claiming that he only introduced the executives to suppliers.

Meanwhile, Barbers said their investigations revealed more names such as "Aedy Yang and Henry Yang, Elaine Chua, and a lot more Chinese who all pretended to be Filipinos but are actually Chinese nationals. Using fictitious documents and corporations, they went on buying sprees and allegedly bought hundreds and possibly thousands of hectares of agricultural and residential lands in Northern Luzon and started building warehouses."

“These very suspicious activities have stopped as soon as we started the investigations. So now, they again resorted in hiding these assets by ‘selling’ them to other Chinese nationals. We promise that we will leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom truth of this mess these Chinese nationals created here in our country”, assured Barbers.

“I always say that we have no problems with Chinese nationals doing legitimate business in our country. But doing these illegal drug activities is another story. We have extended all invitations to these people and observed due process. They never showed up. Even the NBI could not locate them. There is a saying that flight is indicative of guilt. If they are really innocent, we urge them to come out and explain their roles in the labyrinth they created”, Barbers said.—RF, GMA Integrated News