FOUR senators on Wednesday distanced themselves from businessman Kenneth Dong who had been identified as the middleman of Richard Tan who shipped in May over P6.4 billion worth of shabu to the Philippines.
Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Juan Miguel Zubiri stood as sponsors during Dong’s wedding in 2013 while Senators Joel Villanueva and Hontiveros reportedly received campaign funds from him.
Dong reportedly acted as middleman for Tan, who looked for a broker who could hire a Manila-based consignee for his shipment, which turned out to be 604 kilos of shabu.
Hontiveros said she first met Dong in 2012. “In 2013, I, together with fellow Senators Migz Zubiri, Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, had been invited to be sponsors at his wedding. That’s why we were all surprised when his name was mentioned in the blue ribbon hearing.”
“What I know is that he is into the selling of industrial weighing scales. He helped us in our Yolanda relief operations. He also helped us in our electoral campaign,” she said.
Zubiri said: “I consider him a friend but I don’t know what his dealings are and his business details except for his ownership of Azuki industrial weighing scales. And I’m just one senator of several senators, politicians, and celebrities who were ninong (sponsor) at his wedding,”
“I’ve said this before and will say this now that no one is above the law. If he broke the law then without fear or favor, friend or not, the law must be implemented and those who are guilty should be arrested. There should be a zero tolerance for drugs,” he said.
Villanueva said he met Dong when he was invited to grace the opening of the First International Agriculture and Tourism Expo on June 30, 2011 at the World Trade Center.
“We talked about the agricultural programs of Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) being the agency’s director general at the time. Since then, I never had a substantial meeting or interaction with Mr. Dong,” he said.
Villanueva claimed that it was his campaign manager who received all the campaign contributions in his behalf. “During the campaign, he was one of the businessmen who contributed when I was doing fundraising activities. I never had a personal interaction with Mr. Dong.”
“My conscience is clear. I barely know Mr. Dong. I don’t mind inhibiting myself from the Senate probe. However, we want to know the truth. We want to find out if Mr. Dong is really involved in this and up to what extent,” he said.
Pangilinan also said he did not condone wrongdoing. “We believe those wrongly accused should be absolved and those guilty be held to account regardless of who they are.”
“He wasn’t a campaign donor. I met Mr. Kenneth Dong when I was chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food during my second term as senator. In November 2013, I became one of the sponsors during his wedding,” he said.
“I read in the papers that Kenneth insists on his innocence. If so, then he has nothing to hide and should answer the accusations by just telling the truth,” Pangilinan said.