MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon, a member of the Senate majority aligned with the administration, does not see any evidence linking President Rodrigo Duterte's son Paolo to the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China.
Gordon described as "hearsay" the photos presented during the Senate Blue Ribbon Comittee showing the young Duterte, who is also vice mayor of Davao City, together with Kenneth Dong, the alleged middleman of the smuggled shipment of shabu.
“Pinapakita si Kenneth Dong panay litrato. Nature na sa atin. That’s why I said ingat nang kaunti because people will always use your name. I have not found any evidence to believe that,” Gordon told reporters Tuesday, August 15 at the end of the 3rd day of the Senate hearing.
(They're showing photos of Kenneth Dong. But that's our nature. That's why I said we should be careful because people will always use your name. I have not found any evidence to believe that.)
Gordon said that during today's hearing customs fixer and broker Mark Taguba referred only to unverified information passed around by circles within the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
“Hearsay eh. Pinalinaw ko yun tanong, alam mo ba yan o sabi-sabi daw? Eh sabi-sabi, papaano naman yun? That’s unfair,” Gordon said. (It's hearsay. I asked that they clarify the question, do you know it or it's hearsay? It's just gossip. That's unfair.)
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, another Duterte ally, shared Gordon's sentiment, saying there is no need to invite the president's son to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee.
“This is the 3rd time na narinig ko na ginagamit yung pangalan na Davao Group. Pag sinabing Davao Group kaagad na sinasabi Pulong Duterte. Wala, no basis at all," Sotto said. (This is the 3rd time I heard the Davao Group being used. If you say Davao Group, they immediately link it to Pulong Duterte. Nothing, no basis at all.)
But during the hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the opposition pointed out that pictures were used as basis to jail a colleague, apparently referring to Sen. Leila de Lima, arch-critic of President Duterte.
Gordon and Sotto were among the senators present in a meeting with the President early August. But senators said the ongoing shabu smuggling probe was not the main topic of the meeting. They said Duterte would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding on his next action. (READ: #AnimatED: Bilyunang shabu ang nakapuslit, Presidente ay di galit?)
Name only used?
Taguba, in a hearing at the House of Representatives, said the Vice Mayor’s name was among those included in the so-called Davao Group. The group is supposedly involved in illegal transactions in the Bureau of Customs in the city.
Gordon said he understood the situation of Paolo Duterte because he himself was a former mayor in Olongapo. Gordon said people then would use his name to link to different groups and business to destroy him. In the end, he said, no evidence was presented.
“Tawag sakin ng mga tao sa Olongapo sociology major daw ako, ka-sosyo ko to, ganyan. Kaya naiintindihan ko yan eh. Sasabihin nila lahat ng masasabi nila para makasira sa tao pero ang hinhintay ko ebidenysa,” Gordon said.
(People in Olongapo said I am a sociology major because I'm part of this and that. That's why I understand that. They will say anything they can to destroy someone. But what I'm waiting for is the evidence.)
Vice Mayor Duterte earlier denied involvement in the so-called Davao Group inside the BOC.
Meanwhile, President Duterte has kept on saying he would resign if there was any evidence to prove his children are corrupt.
Kenneth Dong, one of the alleged middleman in the shipment, denied he is close to the young Duterte. While there are photos depicting their closeness, Dong said they are only “acquaintances.”
In Senate hearings in 2016, self-confessed hitman and Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato and former police Arturo Lascañas Jr had accused Paolo Duterte as the mastermind of smuggling actvities and protecting Chinese drug lords. The young Duterte has denied all these. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com