MANILA, Philippines — A message from a March 13 text exchange between customs broker Mark Ruben Taguba II and “Tita Nani,” his contact with the so-called Davao group, purports to show the alleged involvement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s son-in-law, lawyer Manases “Mans” Carpio, in smuggling activities at the Bureau of Customs.
Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Dutertelike his brother-in-law Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, has been accused by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of being a key member of the group that supposedly facilitates shipment releases from BOC.
The Davao group and the names of Duterte and Carpio have cropped up in the course of the Senate investigation into how 604 kilos of crystal meth or shabu from China had slipped into the country past the Bureau of Customs, although they have not been directly linked to the issue.
Trillanes earlier said he has a witness who could testify that Carpio and the vice mayor visited the BOC headquarters in Manila, specifically the office of resigned commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, a number of times, an indication they allegedly used their influence within the agency.
Resigned Customs intelligence chief Neil Anthony Estrella, confirmed he had “chanced on (Carpio) going out of the office of the Commissioner,” at least once.
Carpio has denied any links to the Davao group and said his visits to the BOC were to represent clients who had business with the agency. President Duterte has also defended his son and son-in-law.
At Thursday’s hearing into the drug smuggling, Trillanes began questioning Taguba about his January meeting in Davao City with Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera, another alleged member of the Davao group to whom the broker purportedly handed over a P5-million “enrollment fee” to avail of their services and set up a meeting with Vice Mayor Duterte.
Abellera was present at Thursday’s hearing.
Trillanes also asked Taguba about a series of text exchanges spanning months between the broker and Tita Nani, beginning with the January 11 message that said:
“Good am Marc will make final arrangement with Jack. He is the handler of Paolo. Now we have to advance the [money] so he can fly down to Davao to arrange your meeting with Pulong asap. During the meeting, you personally turn over the 5 million. Same manner you likewise turn over the [money] to Jack when we meet.”
Both Taguba and Abellera confirmed they were introduced to each other in Davao on January 16 by Jack, although both of them claimed not to know his real name.
Taguba also read some more text messages, including one from March 3 in which he informs “Tita Nani binigay ko na po kay Tito Jojo pati yung kay P (I’ve already given [the payments] for Tito Jojo and P.”
Jojo is Jojo Bacud, who Taguba said taught him the ropes of his trade and introduced home to Tita Nani. Taguba said P refers to Paolo Duterte.
He then read a March 17 exchange of messages with Tita Nani in which he mentions both Paolo Duterte and Carpio as he sought help for a problematic shipment.
In one message, Taguba told Tita Nani “there’s no need to panic. I haven’t filed it yet. All I need from Tito Jack is for either P or Mance to call collector Jet Maronilla that we have go signal for our SPL.”
Asked by Trillanes what SPL meant, Taguba replied it referred to a container that should not be placed under a Customs alert so it could be immediately released.
Asked who the “Mance” in the message was, Taguba said I was the “asawa ni (the husband of) Mayor Sara,” although he admitted that he knew this because “nababanggit lang nila sa akin, sabi nila (they only mentioned this to me, they said) part of Davao group.”