THE Senate Blue Ribbon committee recommended a lifestyle check on family members of President Rodrigo Duterte—including his son and son-in-law—amid allegations of corruption in connection with the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu that was discovered earlier this year.
Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and lawyer Manases Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, were being linked to the illegal drug shipment that passed through the Bureau of Customs in May.
In a 52-page draft committee report, Senator Richard Gordon wrote: “Personalities who, due to their close relationships to persons possessing high authority, are held to higher standards of accountability to the people precisely because of such close relationships. There are many examples that we are aware where rumors of close relationships abound, regardless of the administration in power.”
The draft report also said: “Perhaps this is an opportunity, in aid of legislation, to shed light into this area. In this administration, a similar pattern has emerged, with certain members of the First Family being linked to this sordid affair.”
“Therefore, the committee decided to invite the personalities being mentioned, namely, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and attorney Manases Carpio, and; request the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] to include both personalities in the lifestyle checks being conducted.”
But the committee ruled there was “no evidence to connect the two to the smuggling of drugs or other contraband through the Bureau of Customs.”
Although Duterte and Carpio were summoned “on the basis of mere hearsay,” the committee “sought to accommodate the importuning of Senator [Antonio] Trillanes.”
“The committee wanted to show likewise that there are no holy cows exempted from our processes,” Gordon said.
“Implicating persons on mere hearsay was rigorously avoided. But, your committee did not hesitate to summon when a connection or implication was made of certain personalities, based on personal knowledge, even if the supposed personal knowledge was determined later to be a mistaken one,” he added.
Sara Duterte-Carpio, for her part, scored the “unreasonable” draft resolution.
“If indeed the recommendation of a lifestyle check on attorney Mans finds its way into the final committee report, my opinion is, it is an unreasonable recommendation mainly because it is based on “chismis” of Mr. Taguba and from the lies of Trillanes,” the mayor said, referring to Customs fixer Mark Ruben Taguba and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Nevertheless, Duterte-Carpio said that she welcomes the investigation by the Ombudsman “since this will allow us to answer accusations” against her family.
“I also welcome a lifestyle check on my husband so that the issue is put to rest,” she added.
She shot back at Trillanes, whom she accused of being a “paid troll.”
“He is fishing for information with his lies and accusations. If indeed he is correct, why is he looking for evidence from us?” she said in Filipino.
Malacañang declined to comment on the issue, saying that they will defer “to Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and attorney Mans Carpio.”
Amid allegations of involvement in widespread smuggling at the Bureau Customs, the vice mayor and Carpio appeared before Gordon’s committee and denied links to the Davao Group and even its existence.
Like the President, the two also rejected the challenge of Trillanes to sign a waiver to the bank secrecy laws to open ttheir bank accounts to public scruitny.
The Blue Ribbon committee also recommended the filing of criminal charges against all officers of the Bureau of Customs Command Center. Gordon, however, did not recommend charges against Carpio and Duterte.
A portion of the draft committee report noted that “no evidence was established to connect the two to the smuggling of drugs or other contraband through our Bureau of Customs.”
Furthermore, the draft committee report has also recommended a lifestyle check on Taguba and Abellera as well 12 others allegedly involved in the delivery of the P6.4-billion shipment of shabu from China.
“It is also recommended to our law enforcement agencies, as well as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, through the Secretary of Finance, and ultimately through the President of the Philippines, that the following be further investigated, that their cases be more extensively pursued, and that they be haled to court, if warranted, for their participation in the smuggling of the 604 kilos of shabu into the country—especially looking into lifestyle checks of the persons mentioned…,” the draft report said.
Gordon also sought the identification of “Tita Nanie,” Jojo Bacud, “Jack”, and Noel” mentioned by Taguba.
Tita Nanie was the one who introduced Taguba to the Davao Group, allegedly led by the Davao City vice mayor. Jack, meanwhile, is the alleged middleman.
During the hearing, Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr confirmed meeting Taguba and Jack at a restaurant in Davao City. He also admitted his close ties with Duterte but denied involvement in smuggling.
Taguba said the Davao Group facilitated smuggled deliveries in exchange for grease money. He told the Senare hearings that he paid Abellera Jr. sometime last January in Davao City P5-million “enrollment fee” so he could seek protection from the Davao city vice mayor.
The draft committee report must still be signed by a majority of the members of the Blue Ribbon committee before it can be sent to the Senate plenary, where all senators will decide to either adopt it or reject it.