Malacañang on Thursday said it did not know the whereabouts of suspected drug kingpin Peter Lim, following reports that the businessman had fled the Philippines.

Last week, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the government was on the hunt for Lim, whom he said had gone missing.

“Iyong isa pang hinahanap natin si Peter Lim. Nawawala na rin ito at ang tingin natin, nakalabas ng country. Ito iyong mga sinasabi natin na talagang directly connected to our national security,” Año said in a Teleradyo interview.

This was denied by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which said that Lim had no recent record of departure.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque also stood by the DOJ’s claim.

“Wala pa namang kumpirmasyon iyan dahil ang sabi po ng ating DOJ na under po ang (Bureau of Immigration) e wala pa po silang record na nakalabas po si Peter Lim,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“Pero nonetheless e nasa watchlist naman po ng Interpol itong si Peter Lim. At saka I’m sure po na gagawa ng hakbang ang DOJ to cancel his passport and to make sure that because he has no travel documentation, that wherever he may be, kung abroad man siya eh maalerto iyong mga receiving state kung nasasaan siya,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly accused Lim of being a drug kingpin since his campaign. The president also made several threats to kill the Cebu-based businessman and expressed willingness to go to jail for it.

The justice department earlier indicted Lim for conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading, along with self-confessed “shabu” distributor Kerwin Espinosa, Marcelo Adorco, and Ruel Malindangan.

The government has since put a P500,000 bounty for his arrest in 2018.

Lim went into hiding shortly after his arrest was ordered in August 2018. The government also has also put up a P500,000 bounty for his arrest.

Despite a big name like Lim going missing, Roque claimed that Duterte’s drug war was not anti-poor.

“Unang-una po wanted si Peter Lim, wala po siyang kalayaan. Pangalawa po nakakulong po si Sen. Leila De Lima, proof na hindi lang po mahihirap ang tina-target dito sa war on drugs,” he said.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, has been detained since 2017 for allegedly facilitating the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison and receiving drug money to fund her senatorial campaign.

An International Criminal Court prosecutor recently sought authorization from The Hague tribunal to open an investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs.

Duterte and his camp were adamant in saying that the country would not participate in the probe. John Ezekiel J. Hirro