MALACAÑANG on Saturday said there was no need for the Senate to summon the President’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and son-in-law Manases Carpio to the Senate inquiry into the P6.4-billion shipment of illegal drugs that slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement after a Customs fixer, Mark Ruben Taguba, reversed his testimony and apologized to Duterte and Carpio for the “fake news” circulating that the two were involved in the drug shipment and corrupt activities at Customs.
“With Mark Ruben Taguba 2nd’s statement clearing Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Atty. Manases Carpio from involvement in the BOC smuggling issue, there may be no reason for the Senate investigative panel to call the two individuals to attend any hearing in Manila, although they have indicated willingness to testify,” Abella said in a statement.
“The legislature is a co-equal branch of government, and the Executive branch respects the Senate’s independence. We trust its wisdom on this matter,” he added.
Taguba, in a statement on Friday, cleared Duterte and Carpio of any wrongdoing in the Customs bureau.
Taguba is a “fly-by-night” broker tagged as one of those who facilitated the shipment of 605 kilograms of drugs from Xiamen, China in May. He denied that he knew that the container he delivered to the Manila port had drugs inside.
“I am making this statement to clear Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Atty. Manse Carpio from any involvement in the shipment of illegal drugs into the country, and any anomalies in the Bureau of Customs,” Taguba said.
“I also hereby apologize to Vice Mayor Duterte, Atty. Carpio and to the First Family for the proliferation of fake news arising out of my testimony at the Senate yesterday,” he added.
Taguba also belied “fake news deviously spread on social media” in connection with his testimony during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday.
“I wish to categorically make it clear that: 1. I had never testified, nor will I ever testify that Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and/or Atty. Manse Carpio were involved in the shipment of illegal drugs into the country. Neither have I testified, nor will I ever testify that the aforementioned individuals were involved in the ‘Tara System’ that was in place at the Bureau of Customs,” he said.
Taguba maintained that the alleged involvement of Duterte and Carpio in the shipment was “hearsay in nature.”
“The names of Vice Mayor Duterte and or Atty. Manases Carpio were merely mentioned by the ‘Davao Group’ whose direct contacts to me were ‘Tita Nanie’ and ‘Jack.’ As I had repeatedly stated before Congress and the Senate, the alleged involvement of the aforementioned individuals are hearsay in nature,” he said.
Taguba being harassed?
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th on Saturday claimed the government had started to harass the family of customs fixer Mark Taguba.
Trillanes said he had expected Taguba’s turnaround, after the 26-year-old Customs fixer testified that he had “heard” that the Duterte and Carpio were behind the so-called Davao Group, reportedly a very influential group that facilitates shipments at Customs.
“I’m expecting that because this government is already quite alarmed that Paolo Duterte and Mans Carpio are now directly being linked (to smuggling) who are part, so to speak, of the First Family of President (Rodrigo) Duterte,” Trillanes said.
“I received information that the Taguba’s family is now being pressured. Their businesses were being scrutinized that’s why he apologized,” Trillanes said in a radio interview.
He claimed it was Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the smuggling of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China, who made the initial move to harass Taguba.
“Senator Gordon recited (during a the inquiry Thursday) the different business ventures of Taguba’s father,” the opposition senator said.
“Then, he questioned the source of their businesses. He even requested to perform a lifestyle check (on the Tagubas). The harassment is clear from his line of questioning,” Trillanes said.
He insisted on the necessity of summoning the Davao City vice mayor and Carpio to the Senate probe despite the “recantation” of Taguba.
The next public hearing will be on September 25. Gordon intends to submit a preliminary report on the scandal on Monday.
Trillanes said the text messages Taguba read aloud on Thursday during the continuation of the investigation on the smuggled shabu from China, “which named Paolo Duterte and Mans Carpio, were never forced on him and neither were they fabricated.”
“Taguba’s clarification doesn’t change anything, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Atty. Mans Carpio should still appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee,” Trillanes said.
‘Evidence vs Davao group’
Trillanes also claimed he had evidence to link the smuggling of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China to the so-called Davao Group.
“I already explained this to Sen. (Vicente) Sotto that this Davao Group is directly involved in the entry of drugs. And their point person is Kenneth Dong.”
Dong is the alleged middleman who looked for a warehouse to hide the shabu shipment. Trillanes had released pictures showing the “closeness” between Dong and Paolo Duterte.
“You show up and I will slap in your face the evidence that will link you to smuggling,” the opposition senator said.
“These drug lords will not have the courage to smuggle contraband goods if they knew that their shipment will not get through?” he said.
“This Davao Group is very influential in facilitating to put to green lane these contraband goods, whether regular or smuggled,” he added.
Trillanes also said he would face head-on the ethics complaint that Gordon intends to file against him for “unparliamentary” conduct, after he insinuated that Gordon was protecting Duterte and Carpio.
“Go ahead. Stop the drama. I will face it,” he said.
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO