PRO-7 begins probe on the Cebuano businessman as a ‘person of interest’ in the illegal drug trade
Does Kenneth Dong have a hand in the entry of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China?
The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) is conducting an investigation on Dong to determine his possible involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Dong, who owns a “luxury club” in Mandaue City, was identified by a witness in a Senate inquiry as the alleged “middleman” of Chinese businessman Richard Tan in shipping 604 kilos of shabu to the Philippines early this year.
With the directives from PRO-7 director Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, the Regional Intelligence Division (RID-7) is conducting an intensive investigation against Dong.
“We will conduct complete background check sa kanya. He is now a person of interest na madadagdag sa mga iniimbestigahan ng regional office (with respect to illegal drugs),” said Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, RID-7 chief.
(We will conduct complete background check on him. He is now a person of interest who will be added to the list of our personalities at the regional office with respect to illegal drugs.)
Cabal stressed Dong’s name has never surfaced in their previous anti-illegal drugs operations.
However, they are not discounting the possibility that Dong might have links to some suspected drug personalities who were earlier mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“What we will do dun sa mga dati naming nahuli (in our previous arrests), we will be looking for the link that (Dong) may have some connections specially dun kay Peter Lim or Franz Sabalones. We will check his possible links or connections,” Cabal said.
Cabal stressed their investigation needs to be exhaustive as top drug personalities usually have complex networks.
In their initial investigation, Cabal said Dong has not imported any goods through the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
“Titingnan natin yung brokers sa pier kasi so far our initial query yung goods niya not through airport kundi sa mga sea ports,” Cabal said.
(We will look into some brokers at the pier area because so far in our initial query showed his goods were not imported through the airport but through sea ports.)
Dong was said to have started by selling industrial weighing scales, followed by opening a construction business before he started operating the Liv Superclub, a high-end club in Mandaue City.
Cabal said that except for the fact that he owns Liv Superclub, the police have no other information about Dong.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) Cebu port collector Elvira Cruz also said they have no transaction with Dong.
“I do not know him,” Cruz told Cebu Daily News.
Cabal said they would also seek the help of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) and the region’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI-7) in investigating Dong’s business operations in Cebu.
Since the businessman has already given his statement in the Senate inquiry held yesterday, PRO-7 will invite Dong once he comes back to Cebu.
The Senate blue ribbon committee, which is investigating how the huge drug shipment got through the BOC last May, summoned Dong before the committee yesterday after Customs broker Mark Taguba linked him to a huge shabu shipment from China last May.
Dong was allegedly the middleman who dealt with Taguba on the shipment from China that contained P6.4 billion worth of shabu.
Dong, who attended the hearing yesterday, denied any involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
“May takot ako sa ating Presidente at mas lalong may takot ako sa Diyos!” he said in a television interview.
Four senators on Wednesday confirmed earlier reports that they know the Filipino-Chinese businessman.
Earlier reports said Senators Miguel Zubiri, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Senate President Pro-tempore Ralph Recto stood as principal sponsors in Dong’s wedding in 2013.
He also contributed to the campaign of Sen. Joel Villanueva for the senatorial elections last May 2016.
In separate statements, Zubiri, Hontiveros, Pangilinan and Villanueva confirmed reports that they had connections with Dong.
Zubiri admitted he was a principal sponsor at Dong’s wedding but said he has not seen him since last December. He said he considers Dong a “friend.”
“I got to know Mr. Kenneth Dong when a friend introduced him to me several years ago. I was told that he is a legitimate businessman and an importer of Asuki industrial weighing scales. I consider him a friend but I do not know what his dealings and businesses are except for his ownership of Asuki,” Zubiri said in a statement.
“He made me ‘ninong’ at his wedding and I was only one of many senators, politicians and celebrities who were asked to be principal sponsor. I have not seen him since last Christmas, close to eight months ago. As a public servant, I meet a lot of people and do not prejudge them,” he continued.
But the senator stressed he does not condone any illegal act, especially if this involves drugs, adding that he is one of the principal authors of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
“I always believe that no one is above the law. Should there be any evidence of Mr. Dong’s involvement in the said illegal drug trade, he should be brought to the bar of justice,” Zubiri said.
“If anyone breaks the law then, without fear or favor, friend or not, the law must be implemented and, if found guilty, should be arrested,” he said
Hontiveros, meanwhile, said she met Dong in 2012, who was introduced to her as a legitimate businessman selling industrial weighing scales.
She said Dong also helped in her senatorial campaign, as well as in her relief operations for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“Noong 2013, ako, kasama ng mga kapwa ko senador gaya nina Senators Migz Zubiri, Kiko Pangilinan at Ralph Recto, ay naimbitahan mag-ninong at ninang sa kanyang kasal. Kaya’t pare-pareho kaming nagulat ng mabanggit ang kanyang pangalan sa Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing,” she said in a statement.
(In 2013, me and my fellow senators like Senators Migz Zubiri, Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, were invited to stand as godfathers and godmother for his wedding. That is why we were shocked when his name was implicated in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.)
The senator said she will “not tolerate any accusations of irregularity that will smear my personal integrity and record of service to the people.”
“Inaasahan ko na pawang katotohanan lamang at walang halong kasinungalingan ang sasabihin ni Kenneth Dong sa Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing para sagutin ang mga seryosong akusasyon laban sa kanya,” she said.
(I am expecting that only truth and no lies will be divulged by Kenneth Dong in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing so he can answer the accusations hurled against him.)
Pangilinan, although he denied that Dong donated to his campaign, confirmed that he was one of the sponsors in the latter’s wedding.
“No 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. I was the keynote speaker during the International Agri Tourism Summit upon his invitation. In November 2013, I became one of the sponsors during his wedding,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
If Dong has nothing to hide, Pangilinan urged him to face the investigation and tell the truth.
“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. We will not condone wrongdoing. We believe those wrongly accused should be absolved and those guilty be held to account regardless of who they are,” Pangilinan said.
No interaction with Dong
Villanueva, for his part, said Dong indeed contributed to his campaign but did not know the businessman personally.
“I met Mr. Kenneth Dong when I was invited to grace the opening of the 1st 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,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“Since then, I never had a substantial meeting or interaction with Mr. Dong,” he said.
During the campaign, Villanueva said Dong was one of the businessmen who contributed when he was doing fund-raising activities.
But Villanueva reiterated that he never had a personal interaction with Dong since it’s his campaign team who was the one receiving all the contributions for his campaign.
“My conscience is clear. I barely know Mr. Dong. I don’t have his number, we never talk on the phone,” he said.
The senator said he supports the congressional hearings that would get to the bottom of the issue, particularly the extent of Dong’s participation in the drug shipment.
“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. At the end of the day, this is not just about drugs, this is about destroying the morals of our society especially our young people. I cannot just sit here and not take part on getting to the bottom of this issue. It’s good that Mr. Dong attended the hearing today so he can answer all the accusations hurled against him,” he said./with INQUIRER.NET