SENATOR Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, remained quiet over his draft committee report into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment that was smuggled through Customs in May, and which called for lifestyle checks of President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and his son-in-law, lawyer Manases Carpio, who were both implicated in the incident.
Gordon, a staunch administration ally, remained uncharacteristically quiet and declined to talk to Senate reporters.
His staff told reporters that Gordon wanted to complete the signatures on his report before commenting on it.
The draft committee report has reportedly been signed by 11 senators.
Aside from Gordon and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who sponsored the adoption of the recommendations contained in the 52-page draft committee report, the other senators who signed it are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Escudero, Manny Pacquiao, Loren Legarda and Cynthia A. Villar.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, a member of the opposition, vowed to block the Gordon report, which he said was a “cover-up” to protect the President.
When sought for his comment on the report, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he has not yet read or even seen a copy of it.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he has not yet read the report. He also noted that since it is a draft, there can still be some changes.
The committee report also recommended the filing of direct bribery charges against Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr.
Gordon’s report said there was no logical reason for Abellera to meet with Customs fixer Mark Taguba.
Taguba testified before the Senate that he paid a P5 million “enrollment fee” to Abellera, a member of the so-called Davao Group. In exchange, Taguba’s containers could breeze through the Bureau of Customs.
In a committee hearing, Abellera admitted meeting Taguba through a certain “Jack.” He said Jack introduced him to Taguba, who sought a meeting with Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
Abellera said he is “known” to be a friend of Paolo but denied receiving P5 million from Taguba. He said he has no knowledge of nor any participation with the Davao Group.
But Gordon said Abellera violated Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code on direct bribery.
“There is no logic for Abellera to meet with a stranger (Taguba) to discuss financial matters, or to plot out schemes in order to further illegal acts, smuggling, if not to conduct a sting,” Gordon said.
Gordon also called for a lifestyle check to be conducted on Abellera.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said he considered Gordon’s findings “lacking” as it did not touch on former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other former Customs officials who were implicated in the shabu shipment.
Lacson said he has not signed the report and will submit his insights to Gordon, who agreed to make the necessary additions.
Opposition Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan on Wednesday supported the call to conduct a lifestyle check on the family members of President Duterte.
“I think that it is a right move to dispel doubts that the Duterte family is untouchable. The law should apply equally without fear or favor,” Villarin said.
Villarin said the President and the members of his family have nothing to fear about the lifestyle check if they have nothing to hide. With Maricel V. Cruz
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