MANILA – Malacañang Palace gave assurances on Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte will not interfere in ongoing investigations of corruption and smuggling at the Bureau of Customs, where the name of his eldest son Paolo, Davao City’s vice mayor, has been dragged.
The younger Duterte’s name sufaced during testimony ay a Senate blue ribbon hearing by customs broker Mark Taguba, who had claimed he paid P5 million to certain parties for a chance to meet Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, for the supposed goal of getting “protection” for bringing in contraband.
Vice Mayor Duterte’s name had been linked to a so-called “Davao Group” though Taguba admitted to the Senate probers he did not directly deal with Duterte, only with people claiming association with him.
Ernesto Abella, presidential spokesperson, told Palace reporters on Wednesday: “We defer any comment; after all, there’s an inquiry going on. The President’s position is he doesn’t interfere, and he trusts that the [Customs] commissioner will be able to handle the matter.”
Abella, meanwhile, underscored the need to ensure evidence being presented by accusers is solid.
“It still has to be vetted — especially the witness; at least, if he is a credible witness . . . Again, there has to be verifiable evidence, hindi lang basta [and not just] hearsay,” Abella added.
Digong: Pulong worked at pier at 18
In remarks Tuesday night before members of the Philippine Air Force Dragon Boat team, the President said he was well aware that his son “Pulong” was being dragged into the smuggling issues at Customs.
He declined to comment on the merits of the issue, however, and instead just shared with his audience some vignettes in his son’s life.
“My son was only 18 years old when he eloped, and that hurt me deeply. His wife was 24, he was 18 when we lost his company/ He had to work at the ports, carrying ukay ukay,” the President said, mostly in Filipino.
The President had earlier said he was ready to resign once it is proven any of his children is involved in wrongdoing.
On Tuesday, August 22, during the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation into BOC corruption thaht enabled smugglers to ship 604 kilos of shabu into the country, Mark Taguba testified that a certain “Tita Nani,” a member of the so-called Davao group, told him the vice mayor’s alleged transactions with the BOC were being handled by a certain “Jack,” another member of the Group.
Taguba, the broker involved in the shipment to the Philippines of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China, which found its way via BOC’s express lane, said a certain Jojo Bacud, who claimed to be working with the BOC’s Special Studies and Project Development Committee, had referred him to Tita Nani after Bacud failed to help Taguba release his other shipments.
Taguba testified that Tita Nani, whom he said he first met at a shopping mall in Quezon City, assured him that the Davao Group would help him release his cargo from the BOC in exchange for a one-time “enrollment fee” of P5 million.
Also, during the hearing, Taguba read a text message, which he said came from Tita Nani, telling him about his transaction with Jack, the person who deals with the BOC allegedly in behalf of Paolo or “Pulong,” the vice mayor’s nickname.