Philippines’ Marcos Jnr faces drug use claims again by Duterte camp – is there ‘a plot’ to oust him?

Philippines’ Marcos Jnr faces drug use claims again by Duterte camp – is there ‘a plot’ to oust him?

As Philippine lawmakers prepare to investigate former president Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called secret deal with Beijing over the South China Sea dispute, his camp has struck back by initiating a Senate probe into his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jnr’s alleged illegal drug use.

The latest in the political battle between the country’s most powerful families involved a former agent of the country’s anti-narcotics agency going on record to say that there was evidence the current president was a drug abuser, although the case was never pursued.

Last week, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, a close Duterte ally, conducted a hearing in which former anti-narcotics agent Jonathan Morales said in a sworn testimony he was prevented by a top government official from investigating a male political personality named “Bongbong Marcos”, “alias Bonget”, for “illegal drugs” despite photos of the suspect’s activities having been presented by an informant.

Dela Rosa said a well-known actress would appear in the next hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs headed by him to explain why she was once linked to “nefarious activities” involving illegal drugs with Bongbong Marcos, as alleged by Morales’ informant.

Bongbong is the president’s nickname, while his close friends call him “Bonget”.

During an interview with reporters on Monday, Marcos Jnr was asked about the allegation claiming that he and the actress Maricel Soriano were named in a drug agency report, which purportedly recommended that they should be investigated after they were “allegedly frequently seen inhaling a white powdery substance suspected to be illegal drugs”.

Marcos Jnr merely laughed when asked, while his executive secretary Lucas Bersamin described the allegation as “contrived”, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr (in white shirt) inspects seized methamphetamine drugs in Alitatag town in Batangas province. Photo: AFP

In an earlier weekend editorial on the allegation, the Inquirer said “the President must firmly and decisively put out the fire before it consumes him”.

Marcos Jnr’s congressional allies slammed the “sneaky” way in which Dela Rosa had introduced the serious allegations against the president into Senate records.

Dela Rosa’s three-hour long hearing last Tuesday began with a probe into a drug bust in the province of Batangas, but he switched midway to address the persistent allegations on social media that Marcos Jnr was a bangag, or drug addict, as Duterte had publicly alleged during a rally in January.

Allegations that Marcos Jnr was using cocaine have persisted on social media since he joined the presidential race in November 2021.

Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter, has further fuelled online speculations by posting a video of herself in January giving a young student a box of polvoron, a popular local crumbly biscuit, and telling him to taste it since it was so “addictive”.

To silence his critics, Marcos Jnr had presented the results of a negative drug test for cocaine back then, but detractors questioned its authenticity.

After Duterte once again alluded to his rival’s drug use earlier this year and told the military that “we have a drug addict for a president”. Marcos Jnr dodged all questions on the matter, saying: “I won’t even dignify the question.”

Then President Rodrigo Duterte gives directives to police officers in 2016 over his campaign against illegal drugs in General Santos City. Photo: Jeoffrey Maitem

Alleged documents showing that Marcos Jnr was once the subject of a drug pre-operation report back in 2012 have surfaced on social media.

Last Tuesday, Morales swore under oath before Dela Rosa’s Senate committee that he prepared those documents circulating online, but the “confidential” case folder he had filed in PDEA was missing.

The former agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) insisted he did not know the source of the leak of the documents but described them as “authentic”.

He said a presidential palace official, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jnr, had scuttled the potential arrest of Marcos Jnr in 2012. Ochoa ran the Office of the President for then-president Benigno Aquino III, and PDEA is an agency under the supervision of the office.

Dela Rosa said he would subpoena Ochoa to shed light on the matter.

Phantom folder

However, top PDEA officials led by the agency’s director general Moro Virgilio Lazo told Dela Rosa’s committee that Morales was lying, the documents were “a fabrication” and that no such case regarding Marcos Jnr ever existed in the PDEA’s database.

Lazo, a retired chief of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, warned Dela Rosa that Morales had been dishonourably dismissed from the police force when he was an entry-level officer but had joined the PDEA without disclosing this job record. He was later dismissed from PDEA in 2013 “for dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service”.



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Criminal cases had been filed against Morales for robbery and extortion of 8 million pesos (US$139,000) while he was in the police, but the lawsuits were dismissed, Lazo said. Morales also tried to fend off the administrative cases filed against him, but his appeals were all dismissed, Lazo added.

Morales told the committee he was never given a formal notice by the police force that he was dishonourably discharged. He said he had obtained “clearance” from the police, which allowed him to apply with PDEA.

As for the various cases filed against him as a PDEA agent, Morales said he was still fighting some of them. Morales added that his legal troubles could have started after 2012 following his recording of the sworn statement of an informant who presented him five photos as proof of illegal drug activities “on different occasions” by an actress and “Bongbong Marcos”, alias “Bonget”.

Based on what the informant gave him, Morales claimed he filed a request for the “authority to operate” surveillance and carry out arrests, with the sworn statement and photos attached in a case folder.

Lazo said the folder did not exist and even brought to the Senate hearing eight PDEA officers who all swore under oath to debunk Morales’ affidavit that “everyone inside the PDEA compound” knew he had taken down the testimony of an informant. One of the officers testified “that is not true, we don’t know anything about that … because we were not there at that time”. The other seven officers corroborated the statement one by one before the committee.

A stand-off between two Philippine vessel and Chinese coastguard vessels in the Second Thomas Shoal. Ex-president Rodrigo Duterte is under scrutiny over his secret deal with Beijing on the South China Sea row. Photo: AP

A plot to oust Marcos Jnr?

Congressman Faustino Dy, a supporter of Marcos Jnr, said on May 2 in a press briefing that the leaked documents were generated using artificial intelligence technology.

House deputy majority leader Jude Acidre said there was “a plot” to oust Marcos Jnr. “I think it becomes even more clear now that this turn of events is part of a wider effort to discredit and destabilise the current administration.”

But Morales insisted he had no personal agenda, except to clear his name and prove he was not the one who had leaked the documents on social media. “First of all, I reap no benefit from all these except my death since the subject of the alleged leak was no less than the president himself,” he told the Senate.

The Duterte camp has been milking Morales’ testimony and criticising Marcos Jnr for his silence over the matter. On May 4, former Duterte spokesman Harry Roque wrote in his weekly Philippine Star opinion column: “The President can no longer sidestep [the issue] since former PDEA agent Jonathan Morales has authenticated his 2012 pre-operation and surveillance reports at the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs hearing.

“Under oath, Morales certified the documents as genuine. Once authenticated, the existence of a document is deemed incontrovertible, according to our rules of court. The President should clarify if he was a cocaine user 12 years ago. And whether he is addicted to the substance until now.

“The people cannot entrust the welfare of the nation to a leader suspected of being perennially addled by dangerous drugs.”



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