Gordon rejects motion to invite Duterte's son, son-in-law to smuggling probe

MANILA, Philippines – Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon has rejected the motion of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to invite Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and presidential son-in-law Manases "Mans" Carpio to the Senate the probe into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.

In rejecting the motion, Gordon said the smuggling allegations against Paolo Duterte and Carpio, the husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, were “hearsay” and would only distract from the real focus of the Senate inquiry.

“Sa akin, hearsay mga narinig ko (For me, what I heard was hearsay). I don’t want to be distracted from the drug issue. Once I finish the issue, we go back to the tara (bribe) [issue] and maybe he [Trillanes] can put it there,” Gordon said.

Duterte and Carpio were implicated in smuggling after Customs broker and “fixer” Mark Taguba read text messages mentioning their names as part of the so-called Davao Group, which has strong ties inside the Bureau of Customs (BOC). (READ: Here's what else was in Taguba's text messages on Customs)

In the last hearing, former BOC intelligence chief Neil Estrella confirmed seeing Carpio visit the office of former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon. Carpio had denied any involvement in illegal activities, and President Rodrigo Duterte had vouched for him as well.

Gordon earlier said there was no evidence to link Paolo Duterte  to smuggling, a view shared by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

Who's protecting Duterte?

Asked about criticism that he was shielding President Rodrigo Duterte, Gordon initially said he “does not react” to baseless allegations.

“I do not react to criticism especially if they are unfounded. I’ve been criticized all my life as being good-looking, being mayabang (boastful),” Gordon told reporters after the hearing.

Pressed if his response was a non-denial, the seemingly irked senator said: “Why should I deny it? It’s not true; speaks for itself. Bakit sino ba kinakatigan ko (Why, who am I siding with)? Bakit (Why), do I owe Duterte anything? Do I owe anybody there anything?”

To prove his point, the senator said he had opposed past presidents.

“Please do not judge. And look at my record, I’ve gone against past presidents of the Philippines. Nilabanan ko si Erap, Cory noong araw, Marcos (I fought Erap, Cory, Marcos),” he said.

During the hearing, Gordon and Trillanes faced off shortly after the latter made a motion to invite Paolo Duterte and Carpio to the next hearing.

Trillanes accused Gordon of “lawyering” for Paolo Duterte and Carpio, which irked Gordon.

Trillanes also claimed Gordon had a "history" of protecting presidents, citing the latter's chairmanship of the blue ribbon committee under former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose administration was hounded by corruption allegations.

In 2016, Gordon led the hearing on extrajudicial killings and concluded that neither the state nor Duterte sponsored summary executions.

The next hearing is set on September 25, but Gordon said he is set to draft a preliminary report by Monday, September 4.

Duterte had said he would resign if it there is evidence to prove his children's involvement in smuggling. (READ: Duterte dares critics to prove son behind 'ukay' smuggling– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com