Nalzaro: Is Peter Lim exonerated?

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, who has been tagged as an alleged drug lord, met last Friday in Davao City. Straight to his face, the President warned Lim that once he gathered concrete evidence that would confirm that the latter is involved in the illegal drug trade, he (Duterte) will not hesitate to kill him. “Panahon nga mahibaw-an nako nga naa gani kay sala, tiwasan ta gyud ka. Timan-i na, kay tapuson ta gyud ka,” the President told Lim in a video taken and released by Radio-Television Malacañang, which became viral in the social media.

We don’t know who arranged that meeting. Lim must have been very influential and has strong connections because he was able to seek an audience with the President. Although they know each other because they both stood as sponsors in the wedding of the daughter of businessman Ding Borja last July 25 here in Cebu. In fact, there were reports that Duterte and Lim had a “special meeting” prior to that wedding. In the video, which runs for 11 minutes, there were other persons in police uniforms and some in civilian attire sitting and standing in front of the President.

In the video, the President asked Lim if he was into the drug business because based on intelligence reports, he is a drug lord. “Kung naay sunog, naa gyu’y aso,” the President told Lim in Cebuano. Lim denied the allegations, telling the President that he is 500 percent not into that kind of business. Lim went on narrating the family business which was started by his father. He said the family business, at one time, went bankrupt but despite that, they did not resort to illegal business. The Lims are into heavy equipment and high-end vehicle importation and run a chain of bars.

Lim also denied frequently traveling to China. He said the last time he visited China was during the Holy Week with his entire family. The “Peter Lim” mentioned by Duterte when he exposed the alleged drug lords operating in the country with connections to the Chinese Triad travels frequently to China and is reportedly there. Durterte warned that “Peter Lim” not to return to the country because the moment he steps on the airport he will be killed. Based on the database, there are 4,000 “Peter Lims” in the country, with 110 living in Cebu.

The President told Lim to present evidence that he is not the “Peter Lim” tagged as the drug lord. He urged him to submit to an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clear his name. The chief executive told Lim to “help us clear your name.” This is what I said in my previous columns, that Peter Lim should come out in the open to clear his name. If he is not the one referred to by the President, he should not hide and he should make himself available for any investigation. Lim granted Sun.Star Cebu reporter Ely Baquero an exclusive interview last week, where he appealed to the public not to be judgmental because he has a family and reputation to protect.

In the same video, Duterte explained why he is so harsh on drugs, especially shabu. This kind of manufactured drugs has chemicals and elements that affect the mind of the user unlike cocaine and marijuana that are taken from plants. He said drugs destroy the future of our youth. Drug users won’t hesitate to rob and rape and even kill their victims if they are high on drugs while committing the crime. There are estimated three million drug users in the country, based on Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) records.

It is easy for Lim to deny allegations that he is a drug lord and that he is not the one referred to by the President. First, his appearance here will counter the allegations that the “Peter Lim” mentioned by the President is hiding in China simply because he is here. Second, he can present his passport and other immigration records that he is not a frequent traveller to China. I doubt if he can fake these documents. Third, open his businesses to public scrutiny.

Now, did the meeting exonerate Lim? Why? Because he had the courage to face the President. And he was able to show proof that he is not the one because he has been here all the while and is not hiding in China. But then again, Lim has to show more evidence to convince the President and the public that he is not in the illegal drug trade. If he cannot do that, the tag of being a drug lord will hound him forever. Hangtod sa hangtod magpabilin kanang maong mga pagduda kung dili niya kumpletong malimpiyuhan ang iyang pangalan.

(bobby@sunstar.com.ph)
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