Philippine authorities said Monday they would offer a 10 million-peso reward (U.S. $192,000) for information to help them arrest an ex-policeman who had accused a former economic adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte of being involved in trading illegal drugs.
Police are looking for Col. Eduardo Acierto, a former head of the country’s counter-narcotics enforcement unit, whom a Manila court had named in a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of involvement in the illegal importation of methamphetamines. He denied those allegations during a clandestine meeting with reporters last month.
“Definitely, the 10 million pesos reward money will be a big help to the ongoing manhunt operations against ex-police Col. Acierto,” national police spokesman Col. Bernard Banac said.
Authorities announced the reward after the Philippine government over the weekend slammed city officials in San Francisco, Calif. for pushing a resolution this month that condemned the Duterte administration’s deadly war on drugs.
In its resolution passed unanimously on April 16, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – the city’s legislative body – supported a congressional resolution sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) that criticized “the Government of the Philippines for its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police” and urged the United States to cut aid to Manila.
The 11-member board voiced support as well for Filipino Sen. Leila de Lima, an ardent critic of the drug war who has been jailed the past two years. More than 29,000 Filipinos had lost their lives in Duterte’s drug war, the San Francisco supervisors said, according to official documents posted on the board’s website.
The board had based its resolution on “the false narratives as well as the bogus statistics cited in the Duterte Administration’s drug war fed to them by biased news agencies, anti-Duterte trolls and a biased alleged labor and environmental activist,” Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo countered.
“The resolution is a toxic and unacceptable intrusion to our legal processes and an outrageous interference with our country’s sovereignty,” Panelo said.
Police have said that more than 5,200 suspected pushers and dealers were killed since Duterte took office in mid-2016. In all cases, those killed had fought off arresting officers, police have maintained. Rights groups, however, have put the death toll from the drug war at about 20,000, which includes people killed by vigilantes and others.
Panelo said the government and police did not condone “state-initiated” killings, adding that scores of police had been injured or killed in the line of duty. As for de Lima, Panelo said she was under trial.
Ex-cop goes underground
Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, confirmed the cash reward offered for help in catching Acierto.
“The bounty is from Malacañang, so I’m not privy to where it will be sourced. It’s not from DOJ [the Department of Justice] because such an amount is certainly much larger than what the DOJ could offer,” Guevarra told reporters, referring to the presidential palace.
Acierto had alleged that former Duterte advisor Michael Yang was a drug operator with ties to Chinese narcotics smugglers.
Duterte defended Yang, who served as the president’s economic adviser from January to December 2018, by calling on the public to not believe a discredited former police official – Acierto.
Acierto claimed he had given an intelligence report about Yang to his superiors as early as December 2017, but the report was largely ignored by then-national police chief Ronald dela Rosa, a Duterte aide.
Acierto said he was forced to go public with the allegations after an informant told him that a drug syndicate had put a bounty on his head.
Shortly after Acierto made his allegation and went underground, a court in the Philippine capital issued an arrest warrant over his alleged involvement in smuggling in meth.
Jojo Rinoza in Manila contributed to this report.