MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte on Thursday, September 7, admitted that alleged smuggler Charlie Tan is his "friend" and "drinking buddy."
Senator Panfilo Lacson had tagged Tan as a member of the so-called "Davao Group" that allegedly wields influence in the Bureau of Customs.
Lacson had also named Tan in his list of people who supposedly pay “tara” or grease money to Customs officials in exchange for the speedy entry of shipments without inspection.
During the hearing, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV asked Duterte, "Who is Charlie Tan to you?"
Duterte replied: "Kaibigan ko po. May business sa Palawan.... May babuyan. Minsan nagiinuman kami. Kainuman ko po (He's my friend. He has a business in Palawan....He has a piggery. Sometimes we go drinking. He's my drinking buddy)."
Asked whether or not it's possible that Tan was involved in "bringing out containers from the port," the vice mayor said, "I think Charlie Tan can best answer that question."
During the hearing, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV showed photos of Tan with the presidential son to prove their close ties, and as he did this, Duterte was seen smiling while moving his head.
The photos show Duterte, Tan, and their friends having fun, and also Tan with his friend's father, President Rodrigo Duterte. One photo was apparently taken at the Rizal Shrine in Jinjiang, China.
Presidential son-in-law Manases Carpio, who attended the hearing, also confirmed that he knew Tan, but only as a "businessman." The vice mayor and Carpio also both said at the inquiry that Tan owns a nightclub – similar to the testimony of retired Davao cop and self-confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Arturo Lascañas in a Senate hearing last year.
In 2016, Lascañas testified that Paolo Duterte allegedly protected Tan, a Davao-based businessman allegedly linked to illegal drugs.
At Thursday’s hearing, Customs broker and "fixer" Mark Ruben Taguba told the panel that "Tita Nanie" – a member of the Davao Group – mentioned Tan in a text message to him. She supposedly told Taguba to "cut-off" with Tan in a text message on March 7, the same time Lascañas mentioned Tan in the Senate public order hearing. – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org