By Butch Fernandez, May 8 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

SENATE probers looking into supposed fresh allegations about key figures in the illegal drug racket have stepped back, canceling a scheduled inquiry Friday amid doubts raised about Peter Joemel Advincula, a.k.a. “Bikoy,” the self-styled whistleblower who linked President Duterte’s family members and chief aide Bong Go to the trade.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, whose committee had set Friday’s hearing and had publicly advised Advincula – through the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) where he first surfaced on Monday – to bring along sworn statements and evidence, said he scuttled the May 10 hearing after Advincula told media he will only appear at the Senate after the elections.

This, to Lacson, signaled that Advincula – or his handlers—only wanted the propaganda value of his damaging claims, seen to affect voters’ choices in the May 13 midterm polls.

Lacson said his sense that Advincula might only be taking Senate probers for a ride was bolstered when he heard Senate President Tito Sotto’s revelations that Advincula, in December 2016, had sent him feelers from prison asking for help to make certain important revelations. Sotto told a forum at Senate on Wednesday that he then sent a key aide, “Hutch,” to visit Advincula – who was then serving time for large-scale illegal recruitment — and get his sworn statement.

It turned out, Sotto recalled, that Advincula was claiming that former president Benigno Simeon Aquino and Sen. Leila de Lima had links to drug syndicates. Sotto said he and his lawyer-aides assessed the situation and decided that Advincula was not credible.

With his new claims as “Bikoy,” who revealed the “real narcolist,” it appeared Advincula is a serial peddler of stories, Sotto added.

‘Tirang tamad’

Lacson characterized Advincula’s new allegations as “tirang tamad” [the work of a lazy person] because he simply jumbled some of the details in his 2016 allegations in the affidavit he gave Sotto’s office, and his 2019 claims against Duterte’s family members and Go, who is rating high in senatorial surveys.

“Bikoy changed his tune along the way,” Senate President Tito Sotto told reporters. “What’s the point? Let us investigate first.”

The Senate leader noted the series of Bikoy’s reported allegations but said he was not inclined to readily take them as fact, voicing suspicion that Bikoy’s expose “has to do” with the upcoming 2019 midterm polls “to discredit administration candidates in advance of the elections.”

Sotto said he was leaving it up to Lacson to decide “what to do” with the Bikoy issue, as Lacson chairs the ongoing inquiry being  conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs..

“I do not meddle (with committee inquiry),” Sotto told reporters, even as he noted observations that “definitely the witness is not credible, contrary to claims.”

He recalled that doubts were already raised earlier on Advincula’s credibility way back in 2016 when his Senate staff interviewed the witness “while serving time for estafa.”

This developed as Lacson confirmed that they cancelled Friday’s panel hearing where Bikoy was expecting to testify on his allegations.

Wala na (No more hearing),” Lacson said, adding the committee already sent out notices that the hearing on Bikoy’s allegations was cancelled. “It does not make sense,” Lacson added.

The Senate chief prober indicated it was now up to the Executive Department, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to undertake a deeper investigation “to find out if Bikoy was doing it ‘solo flight’ or there are other people behind him.”

Advincula surfaced on Monday morning at the IBP, reportedly accompanied “by nuns,” and somehow was given a platform to air his claims on national TV and on a Facebook livestream even though IBP officers had not yet vetted him. The incoming IBP president has ordered an investigation of how this happened.