Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday accused a dismissed police colonel, who had publicly criticized him and his deadly anti-drug campaign, of criminal involvement and said he wanted to know why the former officer “is still alive.”
In a late-night televised speech, Duterte condemned dismissed police senior superintendent Eduardo Acierto, who told reporters on Sunday that the president had been repeatedly photographed with two Chinese men involved in drug trafficking.
Duterte defended one of the two Chinese men, saying that he had accompanied China’s premier on a visit to the Philippines and was a businessman who traveled to the country in 1999 to sell Chinese-made cellphones.
Acierto, an anti-narcotics officer before his dismissal by an anti-graft agency last year, said that he submitted a report to top police officials and Duterte’s office about the two Chinese to warn the president of their background, but was never informed if the two were investigated.
“In my investigation, I discovered that our president ... is often accompanied by two people deeply involved in illegal drugs,” Acierto told a news conference in Manila late on Sunday, adding that in a later criminal complaint, authorities accused him, instead of the Chinese men, of involvement in drug smuggling.
Acierto was the only police official who has made the allegations against the two men, Duterte said.
Acierto was an “idiot” allegedly involved in corruption, drug smuggling, kidnappings of Chinese nationals and the killing of a South Korean man, Duterte added.
“Don’t ever believe specially this Acierto,” Duterte said in a speech in the city of Koronadal. “What if I ask the military and the police: ‘Why is this son of a bitch still alive?’”
Acierto has denied doing wrong.
Duterte mentioned Acierto while talking about his efforts to combat corruption, including corrupt policemen, and also criticized and ridiculed opposition senatorial candidates running in May mid-term elections.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino on Monday said that he received Acierto’s report and sent it to Duterte’s office, adding that both his office and that of the president took steps to validate the allegations against the two Chinese.
The two were not on any list of drug suspects, he added.
Aquino played down the photographs showing Duterte with the two Chinese men, saying that officials often get approached by all sorts of people for group photographs, without being able to rapidly check their background.
Profiles of the two Chinese provided by Acierto to reporters said that they were involved in the “manufacturing, financing, the importation, transhipment and local distribution of meth or shabu,” referring to the local name for methamphetamine.
Acierto said that he initially welcomed Duterte’s passion to combat illegal drugs, but added that he later realized that the president’s deadly crackdown targeted mostly poor drug suspects instead of going after powerful drug lords and traffickers.
More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gun battles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.
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