MANILA, Philippines – Mark Ruben Taguba II did not testify and will never ever testify against the son and son-in-law of President Rodrigo Duterte in connection with the smuggling of illegal drugs into the country and the corrupt activities at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The importer-broker, a key witness to the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation into the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China, said this on Friday after Taguba mentioned the names of Davao Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte and his brother-in-law, Manases “Mans” Carpio during the Upper Chamber’s inquiry on Thursday.
“I had never testified, nor will I ever testify that Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and/or Atty. Mans Carpio were involved in the shipment of illegal drugs into the country,” Taguba said in a statement, released by his lawyer, Raymond Fortun.
“Neither have I testified, nor will I ever testify that the aforementioned individuals were involved in the tara system that was in place at the Bureau of Customs,” he added, referring to the grease money being given regularly by brokers and importers to BOC officials and personnel in exchange for the easy release of shipments.
He said he had issued the statement to also “clear” Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio “from any involvement in the shipment of illegal drugs into the country and any anomalies in the” BOC.
“I also hereby apologize to Vice Mayor Duterte, Atty. Carpio and to the First Family for the proliferation of fake news arising out of my testimony at the Senate yesterday,” Taguba said.
‘Circulation of fake news’
Taguba decided to issue the statement after he was “informed of the circulation of fake news that have been deviously spread on social media relative to my testimony” at the Senate on August 31.
During the said hearing, Taguba read text exchanges between him and “Tita Nani,” his contact with the so-called Davao group, that purports to show the alleged involvement of Duerte and Carpio in smuggling activities at the BOC.
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 Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV during the Senate inquiry 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 it 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.”
Taguba also earlier 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.”
“Good am, final arrangement with Jack. He is the handler of Paolo. Now, we have to advance the (enrollment fee). He can fly to Davao to arrange a meeting with Pulong asap,” read the January 11, 2017 text that supposedly was sent by Tita Nani to Taguba.
On Friday, Taguba said that the names of Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio “were merely mentioned by the Davao Group, whose direct contacts to me were ‘Tita Nani and Jack.”
“As I had repeatedly stated before Congress and the Senate, the alleged involvement of the aforementioned individuals are hearsay in nature.”