DAVAO City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio have accepted the invitation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to attend its probe into smuggling at the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
In a joint statement released by the Davao City Information Office, Duterte and Carpio said they received an invitation from the committee to attend a hearing on Thursday, September 7.
“We duly recognize the coercive powers of the Senate of the Philippines as part of the legislative branch of government and their authority to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation. We commit to respect the invitation and attend the hearing,” they said.
The blue ribbon panel, or the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, will conduct its seventh public hearing on the entry of P6.4-billion worth of shabu into the country on September 7.
The committee, led by Sen. Richard Gordon, is also expected to tackle the reported “tara” or payoff system at Customs exposed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a privilege speech on August 23.
“I expect them to be (present). If they are my sons, if they are my family I expect them to be on a higher plane than any ordinary citizen,” Gordon said.
It was Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th who requested on August 31 that Duterte and Carpio be summoned to the public hearing after Customs fixer Mark Taguba dragged their names into the smuggling controversy.
“I will prepare for their appearance whether they will cooperate or not. I will find ways to extract information,” said Trillanes amid the advice of President Rodrigo Duterte, Paolo’s father, to attend the probe but ignore the senator’s queries.
Gordon, in a television interview, said the younger Duterte and Carpio would be asked to explain their alleged participation in the so-called “Davao Group” that supposedly facilitated shipments at Customs.
“We will invite them so that it gets done as soon as possible because I’m leaving, I have meetings abroad. We’ll invite them on September 7,” Gordon said in an interview with GMA News on Monday.
Gordon’s statement came a day after President Duterte advised his son to attend the Senate investigation but invoke his “right to silence” if Trillanes asked him a question.
“My advice to Pulong? Go there and when you are asked questions, just tell them, I will not answer you, I am invoking my right of silence because since dating back to the elections, you (Senator Trillanes) have been training your guns on us (Duterte family),” Duterte said in an interview late Saturday in Davao City.
“So for the next batches [of people]whom Trillanes wants to be issued a subpoena, all you have to do is to send a letter [to the Senate telling them], ‘We are not answering your questions. I will not submit to an investigation,’” he added.
Taguba, the Customs fixer, had testified that a certain “Tita Nani,” with whom he supposedly transacted with for the Davao Group, told him they were backed by a “vice mayor,” alluding to Vice Mayor Duterte.
This week, Taguba, in a statement, cleared the brothers-in-law and apologized for dropping their names during the inquiry.
On Saturday, Abella said there was no reason to invite Duterte and Carpio since self-confessed broker Mark Taguba had already cleared them.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE