MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4 – 1:49 p.m.) Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Tuesday the husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is also linked to the so-called “Davao group” that is allegedly involved in large-scale smuggling at the Bureau of Customs.
Trillanes claimed on Tuesday to have a witness who could testify that lawyer Manases “Mans” Carpio, the Davao mayor’s husband, had visited the office of resigned Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon at least five times, and his brother-in-law, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, who had been linked to the Davao group earlier, twice.
At the resumption of the Senate investigation into how P6.4 billion worth of crystal meth, or “shabu,”from China slipped into the country past the BOC, Trillanes also got resigned Customs intelligence chief Neil Anthony Estrella to confirm having seen Carpio at least once.
When Trillanes asked Estrella, who resigned his post earlier this month, if the vice mayor and Carpio had ever visited the BOC, the former intelligence chief admitted seeing the lawyer but claimed he had never seen nor did he have any information if Paolo Duterte had ever visited the agency’s headquarters in Manila.
Estrella added that at the time he had seen Carpio, he “just came down from my office and chanced on him going out of office of the Commissioner,” stressing he was “not privy to why he was there.”
Trillanes said the frequency of Carpio’s visit to the BOC indicated the lawyer was using his influence at the agency since he had no business being there. This, he said, is why he requested copies of CCTV footage from the Bureau.
However, Trillanes declined to provide details about his witness who he said he would present at the right time. He added he wanted to question Davao City Councilor Noli “Small” Abellera, also linked to the Davao group, who is expected to attend the next hearing of the probe after failing to show up Tuesday.
The senator claimed the information he received named Carpio and the Davao vice mayor as the main personalities behind the Davao group, which he said is responsible for facilitating the release of undervalued shipments, including possible contraband, in exchange for a “no look fee” that guarantees cargo is processed through the BOC’s “express lane.”
He also claimed the brothers-in-law were recipients of “tara,” or bribes.
Aside from Abellera, who said he is recovering from a medical condition, several other resource persons, including Faeldon and his chief of staff Mandy Anderson, were absent at Tuesday’s hearing.
Also absent were Allen Capuyan, who broker Mark Taguba claimed was among those who facilitated the release of shipments from the BOC, and Christopher Bolastig, named by Senator Panfilo Lacson as one of the alleged “bagmen” at Faeldon’s office.
Abellera and Bolastig both submitted affidavits denying the allegations against them.
The Davao councilor, in a letter to the Senate, asked to appear at the August 31 hearing because he is recovering from “hypertensive urgency uncontrolled” and has been advised by his doctors to rest for two to four weeks.
SEE ABELLERA’S LETTER BELOW:
His affidavit said, in part:
“I hereby state that I have no knowledge, let alone any participation, on the shipment of shabu from China, subject matter of the current Senate investigation.”
SEE EXCERPT FROM ABELLERA’S AFFIDAVIT BELOW:
He also denied any links to the Davao group, knowing any of the personalities supposedly involved with the group, or receiving any money from Taguba.
But even as he denied having a “handler” named Jack, as Taguba claimed, Abellera admitted that last year or early his year, he had agreed to a request for a meeting at a restaurant in Davao City by a person of that name.
Jack, he said, had a younger person with him who he introduced as a customs broker seeking a meeting with Vice Maor Duterte.
But Abellera claimed he turned down the request because he knew the vice mayor had no involvement with Customs. The meeting lasted 5 to 10 minutes, he said.
Aside from denying being a “bagman,” Bolastig also said he had informed the Senate that he could not attend Tuesday’s hearing because he had to take care of his ailing mother.