MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has requested the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to invite in its next hearing a Davao City local official and two employees of the Bureau of Customs for them to shed light on the alleged existence of a certain “Davao group” being linked to corrupt activities at the BOC.
In his two letters both dated August 16, 2017, Trillanes requested committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon to send invitations to Davao Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera, Hernani Co, chief of the BOC’s Auction Division, and Lourdes Rosario of the bureau’s Imports and Assessment Service Section in connection with the Senate panel’s on-going inquiry into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.
Abellera was the chairperson of the Davao Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Committee on Trade, Commerce and Industry and member of Davao’s Investment Incentive Board when President Rodrigo Duterte was the city’s vice mayor.
Under the current mayorship of Sara Duterte-Carpio, Abellara was elected as the Davao City Council’s chair of the Committee on Peace and Public Safety and vice chairman of the Committee on Barangay Affairs and Committee on Public Works and Highways.
In his letters, Trillanes told Gordon that the purpose of his request “is to validate the information given by Mr. Mark Ruben Taguba II to the Committee.”
In earlier hearings by the Senate and the House of Representatives, Taguba, a private customs broker, testified that the President’s eldest child, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, was being “name-dropped” by those at the BOC whom Taguba claimed to have received tara or grease money from him — namely “Tita Nani,” “Jake,” and “Small.”
Also, according to Taguba, rumors at the bureau swirled that Paolo was allegedly involved in the transactions of the Davao group at the BOC Port of Davao.
But Taguba said he didn’t have evidence of the said claims and rumors and that he had never talked to the vice mayor.
Paolo downplayed Taguba’s testimony.
“Taguba admitted that his testimony against me was based entirely on rumors. Why would we entertain or believe a hearsay? One does not dignify lies with a response,” the vice mayor said in a statement sent to reporters.
The vice mayor also challenged his accusers to a file case against him.