Trillanes asks blue ribbon for witnesses
SENATOR Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday asked the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to summon Davao City Councilor Nilo Abellera, reportedly a close friend to presidential son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte in the ongoing investigation of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China that was smuggled through Customs.
Trillanes also wanted Customs Auction Division chief Hernani Co and Lourdes Rosario, from the agency’s Imports and Assessment Service.
In letters to committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon, Trillanes said the three were needed to validate information given by Customs broker Mark Taguba, who told the Blue Ribbon committee that Paolo Duterte was part of a group involved in transactions at the Bureau of Customs in Davao City.
Taguba, however, admitted he had no personal knowledge about the vice mayor’s alleged involvement. “Sabi-sabi lang, [It’s just talk],” he told the senators.
Customs Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala also testified he does not have personal knowledge of the alleged links of Paolo to the Davao Group.
“I could hear noises, I could hear people’s names. I could just hear Davao Group but the people behind it, I don’t know that,” he said.
In an interview on ANC, Trillanes said he was baffled why a councilor from Davao City would be dealing with brokers.
“And this Small Abellera is known in Davao City to be very close to Paolo Duterte,” he said.
“I have formally requested the Blue Ribbon committee about it so that we can... test the credibility of Mr. Taguba,” also said Trillanes.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the admission of Filipino-Chinese businessman Kenneth Dong to the Witness Protection Program is the prerogative of the Justice secretary, but said this was subject to abuse and public scrutiny.
Dong is the middleman between Taguba and Chen Ju Long alias Richard Tan, a Chinese citizen from Xiamen, who owns Hong Fei Logistics, which owns the Valenzuela City warehouse in which the drug shipment was found.
Meanwhile, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Neil Estrella said it was unfair for Trillanes to accuse him of being involved in corruption at the bureau.
Estrella was among the Customs officials who resigned amid the controversy over the smuggled shabu.
In an interview with GMA-7, Trillanes had claimed that Estrella and Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon received bribes to facilitate the entry of smuggled goods into the country.
Also on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he rejected Faeldon’s appeal to be relieved as Bureau of Customs chief three times.
In his visit to policemen at Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental, Duterte said that while he “will not defend” the embattled Customs chief, Faeldon is here to stay.
“Well, si Faeldon is not the one. He’s not that kind of [person.],” Duterte said.
“Faeldon has written me thrice, asking me to relieve him even at the start [of the shabu mess],” the President said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier renewed his call to Faeldon to quit his post to spare the President from embarrassment, even as the latter also admitted corruption in his agency persists more than a year after he was appointed to the office. With John Paolo Bencito