February 21, 2018, 9:23 pm
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Duterte, Carpio deny links to drug smuggling

PRESIDENTIAL son and Davao City Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio yesterday denied any involvement in the P6.4 billion shabu shipment and the “tara (grease money) system” at the Bureau of Customs.

At the resumption of Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the smuggling of illegal drugs, the younger Duterte and Carpio said they would not answer allegations based on hearsay.

“Once and for all, I now have the time to deny any and all baseless allegations thrown against me,” said the younger Duterte, adding that he complied with the invitation as a “gesture of respect” for the Senate.

 “My presence here is for the Filipino people and to my fellow Davaoeños whom I serve...I cannot answer  allegations based on hearsay,” Vice Mayor Duterte said.

Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, also read out his prepared speech denying his involvement in the shabu shipment.

He also denied knowing Customs “player” Mark Ruben Taguba II.

“I am here before this committee to formally declare that I have no knowledge of or involvement in the illegal drugs shipment which is the subject matter of this inquiry, and to assist this committee in whatever way I can as a resource person,” Carpio said.

 “Me and my brother-in-law have been publicly crucified based on rumors and gossips,” he said.

Denying that he had met Taguba, Carpio said he is a lawyer by profession “and my practice involves representing my clients in courts and other government institutions including the BOC.”

He said the case he is working on in the BOC dates back to the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The names of Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio cropped up when Taguba testified on exchanges of text messages with a certain “Tita Nanie” whom he described as a member of the so-called Davao group.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV insisted on their attendance, saying he would let the public judge them.

Before the young Duterte and Carpio read their statements, Trillanes gave a PowerPoint presentation of pictures of Duterte with, among others, Kenneth Dong, the alleged middleman in the shabu shipment; Charlie Tan, who was described by Sen. Panfilo Lacson in his privilege speech as a member of the Davao Group; and Davao City Councilor Nilo Abellera, who was also named by Taguba as part of the Davao Group.

It was an attempt on the part of Trillanes to link the presidential kin to shabu smuggling but Taguba, the primary witness, admitted to the committee that he is not convinced that the duo were involved in the so-called Davao group.

Taguba, who recently issued a statement clearing Duterte and Carpio of any involvement in the BOC anomaly, said during the hearing that claims about the two’s connection with the so-called Davao group were just hearsay.

“I think they are not (members of Davao Group). They are just saying that,” Taguba said when asked by Sen. Manny Pacquiao if Duterte and Carpio are members of the Davao Group.

Taguba said it was only “Tita Nanie” and “Jack” who mentioned Duterte and Carpio and introduced themselves as members of the Davao group. The two also arranged the supposed meeting between him and Abellera.

Trillanes also tried to link Vice Mayor Duterte to a “Triad,” an international syndicate involved in various criminal activities, including drug smuggling, in Macau, Hong Kong and China.

The senator said he obtained information from a foreign country that the young Duterte has a dragon-like tattoo at the back which proves his membership with the Triad. He said it has sacred digits and can be decoded by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

While Duterte admitted he has a tattoo, he refused to accede to the senator’s request to show it, invoking his right to privacy.

Asked by Trillanes if he would allow a photograph to be taken of the tattoo and sent to the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency to decode secret digits, Duterte said: “No way.”

He refused to respond to questions about his bank accounts, calling them “irrelevant.”

Committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon then reminded his colleagues to be careful with their allegations and refrain from abusing the witnesses.

“The Chair would like to request respectfully that we should not make allegations here without any basis because triad is a very serious allegation and we should not abuse any of the witnesses here,” Gordon said, as he asked Trillanes to “stop editorializing.”

Trillanes also presented a list of bank accounts from different banks which according to him belong to the vice mayor and Carpio but the two invoked their right to privacy.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III then asked Trillanes to focus on the subject of the investigation which is the “tara system” at the BOC and the shabu shipment.

Rainier Madrid, legal counsel of the vice mayor, said Trillanes is on a fishing expedition and has been using lies to manipulate people’s perception.

 “That is Trillanes’ propaganda.  He failed to hit President Rodrigo Duterte before.  Now, he is hitting him through his son via black propaganda,” Madrid said.

Madrid added that they don’t want to engage Trillanes in his propaganda game because the senator has a different agenda.

As for the tattoo, the lawyer said he was the one who advised the younger Duterte not to show the tattoo even if the latter wanted to.

Madrid said he cannot allow his client to be exposed under silly circumstances noting that the senator was only fishing for information.

“He (Trillanes) is not accusing, he is fishing, he is fishing for information because he doesn’t have information,” he added.

Meanwhile, former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon was cited in contempt after he failed to attend yesterday’s hearing.

Gordon said Faeldon should attend Monday’s hearing or face detention at the Senate.

Earlier, Faeldon sent a letter to the committee saying he has no faith in the supposed “impartiality” of some senators.

He said his absence is “not to defy the Senate as an institution” but rather, “a way of protesting.”

 “I continue to have the highest respect for the Senate as an institution but I no longer have faith in the impartiality of some of its members who have lied to malign me and other innocent resource persons,” Faeldon said.

Nevertheless, Faeldon signed a waiver on his bank accounts, including that of his relatives.

The committee also invited Tan to the next hearing, upon the motion of Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

The young Duterte said Tan, a Davao-based businessman, is his friend but said he has no knowledge about the trader’s operations at the BOC.

Duterte said what he knows so far about Tan is that the latter owns a bar, a piggery, and a seafood business in Palawan.

Aquino asked Duterte if he thinks Tan possibly had involvement in the massive smuggling and corruption in the Customs.

Duterte answered: “Your honor, I think Charlie Tan can best answer that question.”

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo echoed the statement of the Vice Mayor’s camp that Trillanes is now hitting President Duterte through his son and son-in-law because the senator failed to take him down since the campaign.

Panelo even called Trillanes a “walking nonsense” and described him as the “epitome of falsehood.”

He said the ethics complaint against Trillanes had long been coming.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the allegation of Trillanes that Vice Mayor Duterte is part of a triad is “pretty drastic” and are “serious allegations” that should be backed up by substantial evidence. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Reuters
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