MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED 1:03 P.M) Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday claimed a tattoo on Paolo Duterte’s back proves his membership in the Chinese Triad but the Davao City vice mayor, while admitting he does have one, invoked his “right to privacy” when asked about details of the design.
Trillanes claimed his knowledge of Duterte’s tattoo was based on “intelligence from a foreign country” that he did not, however, name.
He added that the supposed Triad connection indicated that there was a “competition among syndicates” and then asked Duterte: “Will you show us that tattoo?”
“I invoke my right to privacy,” the vice mayor replied.
At this point, Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, cautioned against making “allegations without any basis. Triad is a serious allegation.”
TESTY EXCHANGE: ‘NO WAY,’ PAOLO TELLS TRILLANES
When Trillanes was later given a chance by Gordon – after the turn of several senators – to raise questions anew, Trillanes revisited the “tattoo” issue, sparking a testy exchange with Vice Mayor Duterte.
Trillanes explained that the “dragon-like tattoo” he had cited earlier is important because it is the “Triad evidence of membership,” referring to the Hong Kong-based gang linked to illegal drugs trafficking, among other serious crimes.
The Triad tattoo has “secret digits,” said Trillanes, and can only be decoded by experts. “If Vice Mayor Duterte is willing, we’ll take a photo of his tattoo and have it sent to the US-DEA [US Drug Enforcement Agency]” to be decoded, Trillanes explained.
To which, Paolo Duterte replied,: “No way.”
Asked again, Duterte replied, “Mr. Chair, no way.”
Trillanes pressed anew, but again Duterre replied, “no, sir.”
Trillanes pushed: “Again, Vice Mayor, if wala kang tinatago, bakit ayaw mong pakunan–e di wala namang made-decode?”
An obviously miffed Paolo Duterte asked him back, “Mr. Chair, ilang beses ko bang sasagutin na ayaw ko [how many times do I need to tell you I don’t want to]?
Before raising Duterte’s tattoo, Trillanes showed several pictures of the vice mayor with Charlie Tan, the Davao-based trader whose name has been linked to smuggling, including of drugs, and who is alleged a close friend of the vice mayor.
Some of the pictures apparently showed Duterte and Tan traveling abroad together.
This is not the first time Paolo has been mentioned in connection with smuggling.
In September 2016, Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which was allegedly set up by President Rodrigo Duterte when he was still mayor of the southern city, also linked Paolo to the alleged smuggling of rice and oil.
And in March this year, at an inquiry of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, retired Davao police officer Arturo Lascañas, who also claimed to be a death squad member, claimed Tan had smuggled in drugs in a container van of furniture from China for Paolo’s home.
Initially, Lascañas said Paolo wanted Tan arrested.
But when the delivery arrived, Lascañas claimed Paolo called him up and told him that he would “arbor” Tan, which meant that he would take responsibility for the businessman.
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