MANILA, Philippines – If there was no public pressure, Sen. Richard Gordon would continue to refuse inviting President Rodrigo Duterte’s son and son-in-law to the Senate for them to shed light on allegations that they were part of the Davao Group that purportedly facilitated the swift release of illegal cargoes in the country’s ports, according to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
“Buti naman nakaramdam na siya. Kung hindi pa siya nakaramdam ng public outrage eh magmamatigas pa, hindi bibigay ‘yon [It’s good that he had felt it. Had he not felt public outrage, he would not give in],” Trillanes told reporters last Monday.
“Talagang naramdaman n’ya ‘yong outrage eh. Kasi naramdaman n’ya na talagang nag-stall naman siya and the public will see that. Tapos ngayon biglang…nagset ng schedule,” added Trillanes, referring to the next hearing set by Gordon’s committee on Thursday, Sept. 7, which was supposed to be on Sept. 25.
[He really felt the outrage. He really felt that he was stalling and the public will see that. And now, he suddenly set a schedule.]
Gordon on allegations vs Pulong: ‘I’m waiting for evidence’
Last month, Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating drug smuggling and corrupt activities at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), said he found no reason to summon Davao Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte to the hearing.
After importer-broker Mark Ruben Taguba II mentioned Pulong’s name during the inquiry as among those being “name-dropped” by individuals behind the Davao Group, Gordon said he had not found any evidence to believe the vice mayor’s alleged link to smuggling activities.
“Naiintindihan ko ‘yan eh. Sasabihin nila lahat ng masasabi nila para makasira sa tao. Pero ang hinihintay ko ebidensya, ebidensya [I understand that. They will say everything to destroy a person. But what I’m waiting for is evidence, evidence],” Gordon said.
Last August 31, Taguba also mentioned the name of Carpio from a March 13 text exchanges between the importer-broker and a certain “Tita Nani,” Taguba’s contact within the Davao Group. In the Senate’s August 29 hearing, former BOC intelligence service chief Neil Estrella confirmed that Carpio visited resigned Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon’s office.
Gordon: Allegations vs Pulong, Mans just hearsay
Still, Gordon rejected Trillanes’ request to both summon Pulong and Mans.
In an August 31 interview with reporters, Gordon said the allegations against Duterte and Carpio were mere “hearsay.”
“Sa ’kin, hearsay mga narinig ko pero ayoko sabihin na inaayos ko ‘yong ebidensya [For me, what I heard were hearsay but I don’t want others to say that I’m having the evidence fixed]…I don’t want to be distracted from the drug issue. Once I finish this, we go back to the tara then maybe we can put it there,” said Gordon.
Gordon invites Pulong, Mans to Senate probe, expects them to speak up
But on Monday, Sept. 4, Gordon’s committee formally invited the younger Duterte and Carpio to attend the Senate inquiry, following President Duterte’s advice to his son and son-in-law to attend the hearing but invoke their right against self incrimination.
Gordon also denied Trillanes’ claim that he tried to block the latter’s move to have the two appear in the hearing. “Hindi totoo ‘yong sinasabi niyang hinaharang namin.”
He said he was expecting Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio “to be…on a higher plane than ordinary citizens” and answer the allegations being hurled against them.
“Sagutin nila,” said Gordon, who filed a complaint against Trillanes before the Senate Ethics Committee Monday night.