MANILA, Philippines – The Senate minority bloc and Davao Mayor Sara Duterte are one in saying that a complaint should not be filed against Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV in relation to his move to find out the truth about smuggling and corruption activities at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which were recently linked to Sara’s brother and husband.
“The Senate minority bloc stands behind Senator Sonny in his desire to ferret out the truth and will oppose efforts to stifle dissent and silence the opposition that are essential in a vibrant democracy,” said lawmakers Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan in a statement issued Friday.
The senators took up the cudgels for Trillanes after Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating drug smuggling and corrupt activities at the BOC, threatened to file an ethics complaint against the former Navy officer.
The two senators engaged in a heated exchange on Thursday amid importer-broker Mark Ruben Taguba II’s testimony about the Davao Group, which was allegedly in cahoots with corrupt officials and personnel at the BOC.
Among the information presented by Taguba to the Senate panel were the text exchanges between him and a certain “Tita Nani” of the Davao Group. Taguba, during the inquiry, read some of the messages of Tita Nani, who linked Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Manases Carpio to the group’s operations.
“We cannot help but ask our colleagues in the majority if this is an attempt to harass and intimidate a colleague in the opposition. There appears to be a pattern of filing of ethics complaints against senators who do not subscribe to the views of those aligned with the administration,” they said, citing the cases filed last year against De Lima, while she was leading the inquiry into the Davao Death Squad as chair of the Senate Committee on Justice.
“Now we have this threat of a case filed against Senator Sonny that came after his line of questioning in the hearing led to linking Paolo Duterte to smuggling in the BoC. Is this ethics case meant to silence the opposition in the Senate and the critics of the administration?” the minority bloc added.
Sara defends husband but isn’t considering legal action vs Trillanes
Also, in a recent media interview, Sara Duterte said she saw no reason why a legal action should be taken against Trillanes, saying that the senator was just doing his job as part of the opposition, which is an exercise in democracy.
“Wala koy kino-consider na legal action against Trillanes. Siguro ang iyang ginabuhat is iya lang ginabuhat as opposition. Democracy,” the mayor said.
[I’m not considering legal action against Trillanes. Maybe he’s just doing it as part of the opposition. It’s democracy.]
Sara nevertheless defended her husband from allegations linking him to corrupt activities at the BOC.
“I don’t know. Kani sigurong tsismis lang na iyang gitahi-tahi ug iyang gihimuan og istorya. But Attorney Carpio, Attorney Mans, did not deny nga nagaadto siya og government offices, not just BOC para sa iyang kliyente,” the mayor said.
[I don’t know. Maybe those were just rumors that were put together to make a story. But Attorney Carpio, Attorney Mans, did not deny that he was going to government offices, not just BOC, for his clients.]
Meanwhile, opposition senators urged their colleagues in the majority “to rethink their position as regards” the threat against Trillanes.
“Even assuming for the sake of argument that this is not the intention of the Senate majority, the result of a decision of either a suspension or dismissal will have the same effect of weakening the opposition in particular and our democracy as a whole where dissent must be respected,” they said.