Mighty Corp denies bribe try on Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Mighty Corporation, the cigarette company whose owner President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered arrested for allegedly using fake tax stamps, denied it ever attempted to bribe the President.

"On the bribery attempt allegedly perpetrated by Mighty Corporation, the company, through its counsel, Atty Sigfrid Fortun categorically denied any occasion or participation in the supposed incident," the company said in a statement on Tuesday night, March 7.

"Mighty has never taken part nor has it ever indulged in such activity especially with officers of the incumbent administration," the company added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that Duterte had talked about an "attempt to influence him financially" during the March 6 Cabinet meeting.

Abella refused to elaborate on the matter. Later on, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo gave more details to media.

Panelo relayed Duterte's story as he understood it: that Duterte once received a gift which he thought was a box of wine but turned out to be a box of cash. Duterte supposedly ordered the box returned to the sender.

Panelo told media the sender was the "owner of Mighty Corporation."

Duterte eventually confirmed Panelo's story but clarified that the incident occurred when he was still Davao City mayor.

Special Assistant to the President Secretary Bong Go also confirmed that the sender of the cash gift was Mighty Corporation.

'Victim of misinformation'

But Mighty Corporation denied this and called Panelo a "victim of misinformation."

"Panelo is a victim of misinformation hence he has unwittingly disparaged Mighty who has no connection to that bribe incident that occurred several years back," the company said.

"Mighty was never involved or identified as the giver of the bribe but another cigarette manufacturer unrelated to the company," they said.

Asked for comment, Panelo said he had never used the term "bribery attempt" to describe the cash gift.

"I denied having said about the bribery and I have repeated the story by PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) as he explained in an ambush interview," said Panelo.

Duterte, in the ambush interview, said the sender of the cash gift had asked for a favor before leaving the gift.

"When I was mayor, wala naman sinabi basta iniwan lang, may hiningi, pabor, sabi ko, 'I am not into it' pero 'pag tindig niya may naiwan doon...Akala ko, kung bote tatanggapin ko, hindi naman ako umiinom eh, eh 'di binibigay ko lang. Pero noong tiningnan ng aide ko, pera. Sabi ko ihabol mo kung saan 'yang gagong 'yan so nahabol niya sa eroplano mismo, sa Davao," said Duterte.

(When I was mayor, they didn't say anything but someone just left something, they asked for a favor, I said, "I am not into it." But when they left, something was left behind....I thought, if it's a bottle, I'll accept. I don't drink anyway, so I'll just give it away. But when my aide looked inside, there was money. I said, "Run after that fool," so he was able to reach the person in the Davao airport.)

Merriam-Webster defines a bribe as "money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.