Duterte confirms campaign contributor joined Abe meeting

Pia Ranada
Duterte confirms campaign contributor joined Abe meeting
President Rodrigo Duterte gives assurances that business was not a topic of the meeting that his friend Sammy Uy joined

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that his friend and long-time campaign contributor, Davao businessman Samuel “Sammy” Uy, joined his bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October.

But he gave assurances that business was not a topic of the meeting.

“We never talked about business, mining,” Duterte said during a one-on-one interview with Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa on Thursday, December 29.

People from the private sector are usually not allowed to join such meetings, where issues of mutual interest to the two governments are discussed. Duterte’s meeting with Abe mainly dealt with foreign policy, particularly the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue, and the United States.

Duterte revealed that Uy is a long-time family friend who he met because Uy was high school classmates with his youngest brother, Benjamin “Bong” Duterte.

Uy even used to eat in his old house in Davao City. When Uy became a successful businessman with his egg farm, he became one of Duterte’s earliest campaign contributors.

Classmate ‘yan ng kapatid ko, the youngest, ‘yan si Bong. Doon kumakain sila sa bahay nagkakasera…Lumaki ‘yan na kilala ko. Even the first return sa election, tingnan mo, way back in 1988 nandiyan na yung pangalan niya, the biggest contributor,” he said.

(He is the classmate of my brother, the youngest, Bong. They would eat at our house…He grew up with me knowing him. Even the first return for elections, look, way back in 1988, his name was already there, the biggest contributor.)

While Uy was in his meeting with Abe, Duterte said he was not the one who brought him along. It was a Japanese close to Abe.

“It was not me that brought Sammy Uy, by the way. You can check this out with the aide of Abe,” said the President.

Uy’s Japanese contact was someone he met as he made business deals in Japan.

“He became the contact because these rich people, over time doing business with Mitsubishi, with Honda. He developed that contact and whether we like it or not, he is that influential already,” said Duterte.

Uy supposedly never had transactions with the government while Duterte was Davao City mayor.

Uy was among the major campaign donors of Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign, shelling out P30 million, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported.

As during his campaign, Duterte continues to say he owes no debt of gratitude to big businessmen so he can make decisions on issues of national interest independently of them. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.