Senators Richard Gordon and Antonio Trillanes 4th turned the spotlight on themselves Thursday when they traded barbs and insults during the resumption of the investigation of the smuggling into the country of P6.4 billion shabu from China.
The heated exchange between Gordon, chairman of the Blue ribbon committee, and Trillanes erupted after the latter asked the panel to invite Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Manases Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The vice mayor and Carpio were linked by customs broker Mark Taguba to the so-called Davao group that was allegedly involved in smuggling and “tara” (payoff) system at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Trillanes said Duterte and Carpio should be investigated and given the chance to clear their names. He added that the committee should stop “lawyering” for the duo.
The senator issued the statement after he overheard Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd telling Gordon about the need to further study the matter since the supposed involvement of Duterte and Carpio in the BoC operation was hearsay.
Sotto clarified that he was not objecting to the motion to invite Duterte and Carpio but that the allegations against them should first be studied.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m not lawyering. I’m just saying and if you overheard me, what I said is for the committee to study it first because they were hearsay. It doesn’t mean that they should not be invited,” Sotto said.
Trillanes then asked why the committee seems to be “jittery” and badgering the witness when the issue involves relatives of the President, prompting Gordon to ask if Trillanes was accusing him of badgering the witness.
“If you feel alluded to, then that’s your problem,” Trillanes answered, further infuriating Gordon.
“If you want to make general statement you better prove it. This is the Senate of the republic of the Philippines, this is not a cockpit of chismis (rumors). We are here investigating real things. Stop talking on things you do not know,” Gordon said before suspending the hearing.
Trillanes quipped that the panel has become a “committee de absuelto.”
Gordon threatened to cite him in contempt and moved for the resumption of the hearing to which Trillanes objected.
“I made the objection Mr. Chairman, you are not a one man committee here,” Trillanes said.
Gordon then manifested that he will file an ethics case against Trillanes for his behavior and offensive language.
Trillanes criticized Gordon for his irrational ruling and for doing a one-man show.
“I will not answer you, you’re out of order. I will not dignify all your one-man statement, all your observations that are completely out of order,” Gordon fumed. “The trouble with this gentleman is every time he doesn’t like it he will conduct a coup and then he will be forgiven and then he will conduct another coup.”
“Eh ikaw nag-barricade sa Subic (How about you, you barricaded Subic) just to hold on to your position, that’s pathetic,” Trillanes shot back, referring to the time when Gordon barricaded the Subic bay Metropolitan Authority during the time of former President Joseph Estrada.
Sotto then moved to suspend the hearing, telling his colleagues that the proceeding is unparliamentary.
Upon the resumption of the hearing, the committee quizzed Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera who was accused by Taguba of being part of the so-called Davao group. Taguba claimed it was Abellera who demanded P5 million as one-time enrolment fee and P10,000 weekly payoff per container from him.
Taguba insisted that he met Abellera in Davao on January 16, 2017 at a seafood restaurant and later at a restobar with a certain “Jack.”
He told the committee that he personally handed the P5 million to Abellera.
Abellera admitted meeting Taguba and Jack at a resto bar but denied meeting Taguba at a seafood restaurant.
He also admitted knowing Jack but like Taguba, he does not know his surname.
Abellera admitted being close to vice mayor Duterte, but he turned down Jack’s request to help Taguba get assistance from Paolo at the customs.
Gordon said the committee will issue a partial report on its investigation next week.