Who are the politicians behind the illegal drug trade in the Philippines?
That depends on which side of the political divide is talking.
On the part of the government led by President Rodrigo Duterte, there are politicians, including congressmen, who are involved in drugs.
For certain quarters opposed to the current administration, they claim some members of Duterte’s family and close circle are protecting drug systems.
These accusations and counter-accusations are all leading up to the May 13 mid-term national and local elections.
On March 14, Duterte released the names of 46 local officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
Duterte read the names of 33 mayors, eight vice mayors, three congressmen, a board member, and a former mayor.
Before reading the list, Duterte said his decision to name the suspected drug personalities was anchored on his trust on the government agencies who had vetted the narcolist.
According to the President, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed administrative cases against the officials on March 14, 2019, at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission also conducted their respective investigations which aided the government in filing air-tight cases against the local officials in the list.
“Remember that public office is a public trust. An official’s right to privacy is not absolute and there is a compelling reason to prioritize the interest of the state and the people,” Duterte said.
“As your President, my ultimate concern is the pursuit of order in government and the welfare of the Filipino people,” he added.
“My administration assures you of our dedication to change the lives of Filipinos now, not tomorrow,” he continued.
But then, starting in early April, a series of videos featuring a certain person named Bikoy started to circulate online.
Videos uploaded on YouTube show Bikoy, allegedly a former member of a drug syndicate, claiming he had records of “tara” or grease money allegedly deposited into the accounts of drug lords with the code names “POLODELTA-TSG01” and “ALPHA TIERRA-0029.”
He said the tara records started in the year 2010.
It said the “POLODELTA-TSG01” accounts allegedly belong to Duterte’s son former vice mayor Paolo Duterte while the “ALPHA TIERRA-0029” accounts allegedly belong to Agriculture Assistant Secretary Waldo Carpio, a sibling of Manases Carpio who is the President’s son-in-law and husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Bikoy claimed P170 million and P210 million were transferred to Paolo Duterte’s purported account under an international bank in 2018.
In the video, Bikoy said he personally saw Paolo’s dragon tattoo which supposedly bears the alphanumeric code used by the former vice mayor in his tara.
The video narrator then challenged Paolo to show his tattoo once and for all.
Bikoy also claimed that there were money deposits in the name of Duterte’s daughter Kitty and former special assistant to the president and now senatorial candidate Christopher ‘Bong’ Go.
Paolo Duterte charged that it was opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who was behind the videos, a claim denied by Trillanes.
In a statement, Trillanes congratulated the people behind the videos that allegedly linked the Duterte family to illegal drugs. “Having said that, I really wish I was part of the making of the videos so I could relish these moments but sadly I am not,” he said.
“Anu’t ano pa man, hindi talaga natutulog ang Diyos,” he added.
He again criticized President Duterte, saying the truth “has finally come to haunt you.” He also challenged the President to sign a bank secrecy waiver to prove he is not corrupt.
He also renewed his challenge to the President’s son to show his back tattoo. “Ikaw naman Polong, ipakita mo na lang ang likod mo, ang dami mo pang arte,” he said.
Trillanes earlier accused the younger Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio of involvement in drug smuggling.
They faced off in a Senate hearing in 2017, where Trillanes asked Duterte to show his back tattoo, allegedly of a “colored and dragon-like figure,” but the vice mayor refused, invoking his right to privacy.
The senator, a long-time critic of the President, said he got the “intelligence information” that the younger Duterte was part of a drug triad from a foreign source he did not name.
The former vice mayor has sued Trillanes for libel over the allegations.
In a statement, Paolo Duterte again refused to show his back tattoo.
“I will not show the tattoo on my back and make things easier for Mr. Trillanes. Instead, I dare him and everyone behind the stupid and empty video exposé to back their claims against me,” he said.
The President’s son is running for congressman of Davao City’s first district in May’s midterm elections.
President Duterte has also denied that his eldest son Paolo is involved in the illegal drug trade, saying his political enemies are behind the viral video.
“Well, that is a propaganda that has been repeated all the time. Alam mo — alam ko propaganda na ‘yan. I was told. Eh pabalik-balik na ‘yang… I assure you, we are not into it,” Duterte said in an chance interview at the sidelines of the annual convention of the League of Prosecutors in Puerto Princesa City.
He also tagged one of the supposed purveyors of the video, whom he did not name, as “gay”.
“Kaya sabi ko kayong mga bakla… I do not have to give the name. Iyan sa mga critics ko tanungin ninyo kung sino at alam ninyo kung sino siya,” he said.