• Paolo, Mans deny role in ‘Davao group’

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    DAVAO City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, and brother-in-law Manases Carpio appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into the P6.4 billion “shabu” shipment from China on Thursday and categorically denied allegations they were behind the smuggling at the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

    “Once and for all, I now have the time to deny any and all baseless allegations thrown against me,” Paolo, 42, said in his opening statement.

    FAMILY AFFAIR Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio are sworn in before testifying at the Senate Thursday. Both denied any involvement in smuggling at the Bureau of Customs. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    The vice mayor said he had to take action because the “baseless allegations” against him have affected his family.

    “My presence here is for the Filipino people and to my fellow Davaoeños (people of Davao) whom I serve. I am very sorry,” he said.

    But the younger Duterte said that he could not answer allegations based on hearsay.

    Duterte and Carpio were linked to the “shabu” shipment form China and the “tara” (payoff) system at Customs by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, who accused the President’s son on Thursday of being a member of the Chinese drug triad.

    Trillanes unsuccessfully tried to convince Duterte to show the tattoo on his back, which the senator claimed was evidence of membership in the triad and whose number could be decoded by the US Drug Enforcement Agency

    Davao group

    Carpio also denied any knowledge of the drug shipment and insisted that he did not know alleged Customs “fixer” Mark Ruben Taguba 2nd, whose shipment in May was said to have contained the shabu hoard.

    “Me and my brother- in-law have been publicly crucified based on rumors and gossips. I do not know Mark Ruben Taguba and have not met him,” said Carpio.

    Carpio was accused of being involved in the “operation” at the bureau after he was seen visiting the office of former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who was a no-show in Thursday’s inquiry

    Read: Senate cites Faeldon in contempt

    Duterte’s son-in-law explained that he has clients with transactions at the bureau and that he has been handling such cases even during the previous Aquino administration.

    “I am a lawyer by profession and my practice involved representing my clients in courts, including the Bureau of Customs. In fact, the case I’m working on in the BoC dates back to the administration of former President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd],” Carpio said.

    Taguba, who earlier claimed he had transacted with the “Davao group” to facilitate the release of his shipments, also cleared the two and claimed his previous testimony was hearsay.

    “I don’t think so. They are just saying that,” Taguba replied when asked by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao if Duterte and Carpio were involved in the smuggling activities of the so-called Davao group.

    He was referring to persons named “Tita Nanie” and “Jack” who supposedly introduced themselves as members of the Davao group and arranged a meeting between him and Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr., the vice mayor’s alleged “handler.”

    Duterte and Carpio were summoned by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, that has been investigating the P6.4 billion “shabu” shipment and the alleged payoffs to Customs officials and staff to facilitate the release of the cargo.

    The inquiry led to the resignation of Faeldon on August 22. He was replaced by Isidro Lapeña, former head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

    ‘Not enough evidence’

    Palace officials said Trillanes did not have enough evidence against the President’s son and son-in-law, citing in particular the lawmaker’s claim that the Davao City vice mayor was a member of the Chinese drug triad on the basis of a tattoo on his back.

    “That’s pretty drastic… Those are very serious allegations and he needs to have some substantial evidence to support that statement,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.

    Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo echoed Abella.

    “Trillanes is the one making accusations, so the burden of proof is on him. He is just an epitome of falsehood. Nobody believes him. The more he attacks the President, the higher the ratings come,” Panelo said.

    “Trillanes is dedicated to his ignorance. He is a walking nonsense. He even wants to see the vice mayor’s tattoo. Is he gay?” Panelo added.

    Abella downplayed President Rodrigo Duterte’s photos with alleged drug smuggler Charlie Tan who was also linked to the smuggling of the P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs in May.

    Vice Mayor Duterte was also seen in multiple photos with Tan and another alleged smuggler, Kenneth Dong.

    “For matters like that, I think he (Trillanes) really needs to provide substantial evidence, I mean, aside from pictures and anecdotes. These are very serious allegations,” Abella added.

    The President has repeatedly said that he would step down from the presidency if any of his children were proven to have engaged in corruption.

    Abella said the attendance of Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio, husband of the President’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, showed that they had nothing to hide.

    WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI

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