Duterte administration hits back at claims president is involved in drug syndicate

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and the president's son-in-law, Manases Carpio, take an oath as they attend a senate hearing in Manila on September 7, 2017.

(CNN)Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has strongly denied he has links to a drug syndicate, dismissing explosive allegations made by a man who went by the online pseudonym "Bikoy."

In a series of five online videos entitled the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" (The real narco list), Bikoy -- wearing a hooded sweatshirt to obscure his face -- claimed to have documentary evidence that Duterte and his family members and close aides were deeply involved in the narcotics trade.
Duterte has waged a bloody and brutal war on drugs, which has seen thousands killed by police and vigilantes and which has sparked international condemnation.
    As well as implicating the president, the man said the president's son, the former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte; former Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go -- now a senatorial candidate; and Duterte's son-in-law, Manases Carpio -- husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte -- were "players" in a drug syndicate.
    All have denied any involvement with illegal drugs, with Go citing the president's "hatred" of drugs as reason to stay away from the trade.
    On Monday, the previously unidentified Bikoy allegedly outed himself as Peter Joemel Advincula, a heavyset man in his 20s or 30s with close-cropped hair and glasses.
    Speaking at the offices for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the country's national organization of lawyers, Advincula said his life was in danger after he implicated Duterte and those close to him.
    Advincula claimed to have once been a part of the syndicate. Now wracked by guilt and hounded by death threats, he said he came forward to reveal his identity following the arrest of the webmaster of the site which first hosted the videos.
    CNN has not been able to independently corroborate his claims that he is indeed the figure in the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos.

    Politically sensitive timing

    A poster of President Rodrigo Duterte's aide Bong Go is seen at an overpass as people take pictures of marching protesters during a rally at a road leading to Philippine Congress in Quezon City, east of Manila.
    The claims come just days before the country goes to the polls to elect lawmakers in mid-term elections. Their release has lit up social media in the Philippines, dividing opinion and sparking furious debate.
    Government supporters say the allegations will backfire on opposition candidates. Others see the affair as spelling electoral disaster for candidates aligned with Malacanang, the presidential palace, and possibly criminal charges.
    The chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Panfilo Lacson, confirmed Tuesday that his panel would consider opening an investigation if Advincula provides a sworn statement. He added that compelling evidence must also be presented.
    Supporters seen holding huge photos of opposition candidates.
    In the videos, a hooded Bikoy said he used to work as an accountant for the syndicate operating in the southern Luzon and Visayas regions, "involved in recording transactions -- how much money is allotted monthly per leader in the syndicate."
    He said he has complete records of these disbursements going back to 2010.
    Advincula, speaking from the IBP, where he is seeking legal assistance and protection, said he decided to unmask himself because his past was gnawing at his conscience.
    "I see the destruction of families due to drugs, of which I was once a part as a member of the syndicate. It is time to end the reign of this syndicate," he said, according to a translation from CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.

    'Black propaganda'

    Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo described Bikoy's claims as "black propaganda," the official Philippines News Agency said, and dismissed the claims of the man on the grounds of his alleged past criminality.
    "Information about the criminal background of Advincula is starting to come out. It appears that he has been incarcerated in 2012 for conviction of illegal recruitment and large scale estafa (fraud), as well as for theft," the spokesman said in a statement Tuesday.
    "Presently, there are news that he is facing multiple criminal cases like estafa, among others. These crimes involve moral turpitude that goes to the very integrity and credibility of Advincula or Bikoy," he added.
    In the videos, the man known as Bikoy claims to have indelible evidence. He alleges that Paolo Duterte has a tattoo which includes a code corresponding to his code name in the records -- Alpha Tierra 0029.
    Bikoy said Go, the senatorial candidate, also has a tattoo with a code which he has seen several times.
    In response Go showed his back publicly to prove he has no tattoo. Panelo used the example as further evidence of Bikoy's unreliability.
    "There is a dictum in law which says: 'You lie in one, you lie in all.' This legal principle applies to Advincula or Bikoy," the spokesman said.
    So far Paolo Duterte has refused to show his back, CNN Philippines reports. He has admitted that he has a back tattoo, but has not confirmed or denied that it fits the description.
      Panelo said there were "strong indications" that Advincula and Bikoy are the pawns of conspirators who seek to oust Duterte.
      "Bikoy's pretended fear for his life is part of the fraudulent act. Soon the pretenders and black propagandists will be unmasked," the spokesman said.