President Rodrigo Duterte defended Monday his former economic adviser, Chinese businessman Michael Yang, who is being linked to a company that secured the biggest government contracts for COVID-19 supplies.
Yang has been linked to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp which bagged over P8 billion in contracts for medical supplies last year. His name was floated last week in a Senate Inquiry on the government's spending of pandemic funds.
"Michael Yang has been in business here in the Philippines for 20 years. Nagumpisa yan dito sa Davao," the President said in the address aired Tuesday morning.
"Hindi yan intsik-intsik na kinukuhanan ko ng pera," he said.
Duterte said Yang used to accompany former Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and even introduced him to other Chinese businessmen.
Yang used to serve as Duterte's economic adviser -- an appointment that the President initially denied in 2018 but was later confirmed by his chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
In 2019, Malacañang said Yang was no longer an adviser to the President after a former police officer, Eduardo Acierto, linked the Chinese trader to illegal drugs.
Duterte on Tuesday again cleared Yang of links to narcotics, saying intelligence officers from China would have warned him of such if the allegations were true.
"Bakit ako magduda? Bakit ako magsabi ng drug lord sya?" Duterte said.