Michael Yang no longer Duterte's economic adviser – Medialdea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 26) — Chinese businessman Michael Yang is no longer sitting as the presidential economic adviser, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said Tuesday. 

Medialdea confirmed that Yang's "one peso per annum contract" as an "adviser" to President Rodrigo Duterte expired on December 31, 2018.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in November 2018 said that Duterte "from time to time" has been seeking advice from the Davao-based businessman in his capacity as a "consultant." 

Yang, who owns the Davao City Los Amigos shopping center, is currently facing allegations of involvement in the illegal trade.

If proven true, charges will be filed

A day after clearing Yang of his supposed involvement in the drug trade, Malacañang on Tuesday said it is now waiting for concerned agencies to validate claims against the Davao-based businessman.

In his media briefing, Panelo said charges will be filed against Yang if former anti-narcotics cop Eduardo Acierto's allegations are proven true.

"This President will not tolerate anyone regardless of the stature or the relationship with him if he's involved in drugs," Panelo told reporters.

"I think the burden would fall on the law enforcement agencies. If they received reports of alleged activities of a particular person, then they should do something about it."

Acierto on Monday said that based on his investigation, Yang is deep into the drug trade.

"Alam ninyo, 27 years ako sa police force, 18 years dito sa anti-illegal drugs operations. Kapag ganun po katagal ang involvement sa isang bagay, may instinct na po kaming mga pulis," Acierto said in a video provided by his camp to Facebook page Now You Know PH.

"Marami akong tanong. Bakit pusher/user ang description niya kay Michael Yang? Kung pusher at user ang description, eh bakit consultant ng Presidente? Kung galit ang Presidente sa droga, bakit kasama-sama lagi?" Acierto added.

But Panelo said the former anti-drug operative may just be "getting back at the government" for previously tagging him as one of the officials involved in illegal drug trade.

"Obviously the motive is, since he has been accused of involvement in drugs, he wants to get back. That's why he's pointing fingers at whoever," the spokesman noted.

Panelo added if Acierto's claims were true, then the latter should have filed it when he was still connected with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Acierto said he sent copies of the intelligence report starting in December 2017 to top police officials, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) head Aaron Aquino, Sen. Richard Gordon, and the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, but he was unaware of any action taken.

The Palace on Monday cleared Yang of drug links, saying if that were the case, his name would have been included in a narco list and released to the public.

President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2018 also said the Chinese businessman is not a drug pusher because he has close ties with top Chinese officials.

Close ties with the President?

Acierto had also presented photos of Yang with the President, implying what looked like "close ties" between the two.

Panelo, however, said he is unaware of the "extent of friendship" between Duterte and Yang. He added the economic adviser will continue to enjoy the chief executive's trust and confidence as a public official.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday said as far as his agency is concerned, Michael Yang is "not included in any watchlist or investigation" of people with links to illegal drugs.

The police chief, in a press conference Tuesday, likewise issued a challenge to Acierto.

"Man up and face the charges squarely rather than shoot from the hip with indiscriminate accusations," Albayalde said.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.