President Duterte on Saturday dared Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon to explain his alleged ties with alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and two former government officials he had linked to the illegal drugs trade in the country.
In his recorded public address, Duterte again lashed out at his critics, particularly Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon, as the Senate blue ribbon committee continues to investigate the procurement of alleged overpriced medical supplies from a favored supplier that purportedly has links to the President.
In a statement, Drilon denied the allegation and branded the President's "expose" as "fake news intended to harass the opposition."
"We will not be distracted. We will not let distractions and disinformation prevail. All I heard is old news - the Napoles issue, Mayor [Jed Patrick] Mabilog and Gen. [Marcelo] Garbo [Jr.] Drilon said, referring to the ongoing Senate inquiry.
Napoles was a businesswoman who is believed to have masterminded the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and is facing charges for her alleged involvement in the misuse of the Malampaya fund for disaster response operations.
Napoles has been linked with alleged misuse of PDAF, together with Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and other congressmen. She was convicted of plunder on Dec. 7, 2018, for her involvement in the PDAF scam, with the conviction being upheld by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court on March 13, 2019.
In 2021, the Sandiganbayan convicted Napoles on three counts of graft and three counts of malversation, along with Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula and three others, in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Napoles was sentenced to 6 to 10 years imprisonment for each count of graft and 12 to 18 years for each count of malversation.
Before departing for India in January 2018, the President denied that he ordered anybody to go after Drilon over the pork barrel scam.
On Saturday, Duterte was direct to the point in linking Drilon.
"Itong si Drilon he might want to explain his relationship with Janet Lim Napoles since you want to discuss corruption and the use of people's money. I can still remember that Ms. Napoles tampered with billions of pesos," he said.
The President mentioned one of Drilon's alleged encounters with Napoles at Heritage Park in Taguig City.
"How did you end up partying in Heritage Park in Taguig with Napoles? Could you call that a perfect coincidence? You claimed that you have only met Napoles 10 times, but the photos show your closeness. And is it true that Napoles contributed P5 million to your campaign?" he said.
Duterte cited that even Drilon's colleague in the Senate claimed that he gave something to Napoles to return the favor.
"Is it true that Napoles contributed P5 million to your campaign at ikaw pa rin ang - kasama mo sa Senado ang nagsabi na may binigay ay kapalit (It was one of your colleagues in the Senate who said that the contribution had something in return). So, what did you give in return?" he said.
Napoles earlier claimed she gave a campaign donation to Drilon worth P5 million during the 2010 elections.
Duterte also asked Drilon about his alleged connection with Mabilog, former Iloilo City mayor, and Garbo, a retired police general.
The President had previously tagged Mabilog and Garbo on his "narco list."
"Since you have proclaimed yourself and your friends there in the Senate as anti-corruption czar, please enlighten me, Mr. Senator. Can you explain to the Filipinos your connection with former mayor Jed Mabilog and General Garbo? Aren't they both connected in the illegal drug trade?" he said.
"They both are connected in the illegal drug trade, 'yung mga tao ninyo noon sa panahon ninyo (your people during your administration's term)," the President added.
Duterte also dared Drilon to identify the owner of the biggest mall in Iloilo City and who "brokered" the sale of the Old Iloilo City Airport to Megaworld.
"We are just curious, Mr. Senator," the President said.
Drilon, a Liberal Party stalwart, hails from Iloilo province.
Drilon has denied the President's allegation and branded the expose as "fake news intended to harass the opposition."
"We deny having received any campaign contribution from Napoles. We have submitted our Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE), which are open for public scrutiny. We will not further comment on such obviously fake news intended to harass the opposition," Drilon said.
On the question of who brokered the sale of the old Iloilo airport, Drilon said it was sold through a public bidding at P1.2 billion set by the Privatization Council then headed by the late Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales in 2007.
He added that the government's Privatization Council at that time can very well explain this to the President.
"The site of the old airport represents now a booming Iloilo City.
It is also where we built the Iloilo Convention Center. In case the President mentions it in the future, the Ombudsman has investigated it and found no corruption," Drilon further stated in his statement.
Drilon said that the only other person who has accused him of corruption is now a fugitive from justice - having been found guilty by the Supreme Court of libel.
"I do not have to defend what I did in Iloilo. Mr. President, ask the people of Iloilo," he stressed.
"Former mayor Jed Mabilog is a distant relative, being a second cousin. I cannot comprehend why the President wanted me to explain my connection with former mayor Jed Mabilog and General Garbo. But what I can say is, there is not an iota of evidence that will link my name to illegal drugs," he said.
"If all these malicious attacks are the price we have to pay for exposing the truth, then so be it. We will face them," Drilon added.