MANILA, Philippines – Are Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and businessmen Kenneth Dong engaged in something fishy?
If accusers have the evidence, then they should go to court and file cases against the son of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cebu-based businessman, who is allegedly the middleman in the shipment of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China. Otherwise, allegations against their alleged link will remain baseless and malicious.
This was the response of Malacañang on Monday to insinuations that the younger Duterte and Dong had questionable dealings as the two were seen together in a photo, which is now being spread via social media.
“On the whole, kung talagang (if there’s) anything serious, then whoever is…in this matter then (they) should raise up the issue in the proper venue,” said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella during a press briefing.
“Hindi lang ‘yong paikut-ikot. Kasi, siyempre [Not just go the rounds. Because, of course], at the end of the day, what does it become? It becomes a trial by publicity,” added Abella.
He said documentary evidence and not mere hearsay should be used as basis in hurling allegations against the vice mayor and Dong.
“Ang mahalaga [What is important is the] documented evidence, hindi lang sabi-sabi [not just hearsay]. ‘Yon ay kung kasama siya sa isang listahan o tipong may mga gano’n, ‘yong [Like if he is included in a list, something like that], actual documented evidence,” said Abella.
“Otherwise, these things will just speculation, propaganda which will be used or misused,” he added.
President to step down if there’s proof children are corrupt
Earlier, President Duterte said he would step down if it would be proven that Paolo and his other children are corrupt.
“Sinuman ‘yong [Whoever is the] official who entertained, with the intervention of any of my sons and daughters, that is enough for me. I will fire you and I will press charges against you, my relative, whoever he is and you’ll have the luxury of seeing me go down. Hindi ko na kailangan itong trabaho na ito [I no longer need this job],” said the chief executive.
The President issued the statement days after customs broker Mark Taguba said during an inquiry by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs that the President’s eldest child was allegedly being “name-dropped” by those at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) whom Taguba claimed to have received tara or grease money from him, namely “Tita Nani,” “Jake,” and “Small.”
Paolo dismissed Taguba’s allegation.
“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.
He also challenged his accusers to a file case against him.
It wasn’t the first time that Paolo’s name was dragged into the alleged smuggling activities at the BOC.
In April 2016, Perfecto Tagalog of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers alleged that “Davao City is a smugglers’ haven because it’s (then) Mayor Duterte’s son himself who is the lord of the smugglers.”
According to Tagalog, a 2007 report by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) indicated that Paolo was allegedly involved in smuggling activities.
“Intelligence information…[indicated] that a certain Glen Escandor, son of Col. [Emilio D.] Escandor and owner of Mandaya Hotel, and Paolo Duterte aka Polong, son of Mayor Duterte of Davao City, are business partners in smuggling activities and are responsible in the proliferation of smuggled Sub-Urban Vehicles and high-end cars in the area,” the Dec. 7, 2007 PSG report signed by Rosauro Bautista, PASG team leader 2, stated.
“These activities are being undertaken without any arrest or apprehension by concerned government agencies due to the alleged power and influence of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the father of Paolo,” the report added.
Peter Lavina, then Mayor Duterte’s media bureau chief, dismissed Tagalog’s allegation as black propaganda against the city chief, who joined the presidential race.
“They should have filed cases long ago. Why raise the issue now?” Lavina said.
In September 2016, confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato testified before the Senate Committee on justice and Human Rights also linked Paolo to alleged smuggling operations in Davao City, claiming he had once delivered P3 million in payola for customs officers for the vice mayor at the Sasa Wharf in 2013 – an allegation that was also denied by Paolo.
“[President Duterte] is angry at smugglers but he doesn’t know that his son handles smuggling rice and oil in Davao City,” said Matobato.
In March 2017, during an inquiry by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, retired Davao police officer Arturo Lascañas also claimed that Paolo was allegedly involved in smuggling activities.
Lascañas testified that either in 2012 or 2013, Paolo asked him to help in fast-tracking the shipment of a 40-foot container from China after its transport to Davao was delayed for some months.
Inside the container were supposedly furniture items for Paolo’s residence.
According to Lascañas, a certain Davao-based trader Charlie Tan, whom Paolo allegedly met in China, asked that Paolo’s container be inserted with “souvenirs.” He said Paolo suspected that shabu had been placed in the cargo.
Paolo then allegedly asked Lascañas to escort the container van until it arrives at the covered court in Barangay Catalunan, Davao City.
The supposed plan was to open the van upon arrival and for Lascañas and other authorities to immediately arrest Tan, who according to Lascañas owned a karaoke bar in Ecoland, Davao City and was known in the city to have links to the narcotics trade.
However, when the delivery arrived, Lascañas alleged that Paolo called him up and told him that he would arbor Tan, which meant that he would take responsibility for the businessman.