THE Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) remained unfazed by the reports that Kenneth Dong has well-known government officials as friends as they pursue a probe over his alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino said that this fact will not hamper the investigation they are now conducting on the Cebu-based businessman.
“It will not in anyway affect our investigation,” Espino said.
Espino affirmed there was a report that Dong was a friend of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, but the report turned out to be false.
Espino said he asked the Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID-7) to verify the information and found no link between the two.
“It was confirmed by our intelligence group that they don’t have a relationship whatsoever unlike those mentioned senators or congressmen who (were confirmed to be friends of) Dong. Here in Cebu, particularly to the secretary (Dino), there is no relationship,” Espino said.
Last Wednesday, Senators Miguel Zubiri, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto confirmed they knew the Chinese businessman and even stood as principal sponsors to Dong’s wedding at the Shrine of Jesus at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City in November 2013.
Except for Zubiri who described Dong as a friend, the other senators said they had no personal relationship with Dong.
Dong was also reported to have contributed to the campaign kitties of Hontiveros and of Sen. Joel Villanueva.
Dong, who owns the high-end Liv Super Club in Mandaue City, had been active in the club’s operation and seen in several of its events but has recently kept himself out of the public eye.
Espino said the police are still tracing Dong’s circle of friends and the extent of his businesses in Cebu.
“Also his role in this kind of transactions. We are still in the gathering of information stage,” Espino said.
PRO-7 launched the investigation against Dong to determine his possible involvement in the illegal drugs trade after Customs broker Mark Ruben Taguba II, appearing in a Senate inquiry, claimed that Dong was the alleged middleman for Richard Tan or Richard Chen, a Filipino-Chinese businessman who managed Hong Fei Logistic, the company that shipped goods to the Philippines from China last May.
The shipment got through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) fast lane without inspection and was brought to Tan’s warehouses in Valenzuela City.
Authorities both from the BOC and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), assisted by the National Bureau of Investigation, however later raided the warehouses on May 26, 2017 and found within the shipment about P6.4 billion worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), dubbed as the largest haul of smuggled drugs in the country’s history. The National Narcotics Control Commission of China (NNCC) identified a certain “Chen” and “Li” as the ones behind the shipment of drugs, which were concealed in cylindrical roller printers that the BOC cleared. Dong, appearing before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry, insisted he did not know that the shipment contained shabu, saying he only helped translate to English the cargo’s packing list that was written in Chinese.
But Taguba said it was Dong who facilitated the shipment that supposedly only contained items that included footwear and kitchenware.
Davide backs probe
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said that while Dong might have kept a high profile and has befriended senators, he is hardly known to politicians here in Cebu.
Davide said he did not know Kenneth Dong and only learned about his name from the news.
But he backed the call of law enforcers and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to place Dong under investigation.
“I don’t know him…but it (the allegations surrounding Dong) has to be investigated as well. It’s just right that he’s being investigated by the PDEA,” said Davide.
Meanwhile, Espino said that the BOC in Central Visayas has given them an assurance that the drug smuggling that got through the BOC Manila would not happened in the region.
Espino said the BOC in Cebu also pointed out that suspicious shipments are easily detected in the Cebu ports since international cargoes entering Cebu or the other ports in Central Visayas are not as big as those in Metro Manila.