President Rodrigo Duterte. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO, FILE
Responding to a senator’s charge that smuggling at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) was a Duterte “family affair,” President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said it was “perfectly all right” for his son-in-law, Manases “Mans” Carpio, to “see anybody” in the bureau if it was related to his job as a lawyer.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday accused Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, and the President’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, of being behind the “Davao Group” that facilitated smuggling in the BOC.
Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio have separate rackets in the BOC, according to Trillanes.
The senator also said Carpio was getting a share from the BOC “tara” (payola) system.
In a speech in Malacañang, Mr. Duterte reiterated his promise to resign if any of his children were proven to be involved in corruption but added that he could not “control” other people.
“I will limit that to my children because I do not have control over other people … Like for example my son-in-law who is a lawyer. It is perfectly all right for him to see anybody,” the President said.
In Davao City, Carpio called Trillanes “a desperate rumormonger who happens to be a senator.”
As a lawyer, he represents clients who have transactions at the BOC but this does not mean he is into smuggling, Carpio said.
“It is my job as a lawyer to appear before government agencies for and on behalf of my principals,” he said in a statement.
Paolo remained mum, however. Earlier, the vice mayor said he would not dignify Trillanes by answering the senator’s claims against him.
In February, Paolo called Trillanes “ugok” (fool) for claiming he had millions of pesos in a bank account, which he considered a “wild accusation.”
Paolo pointed out that Trillanes had accused him of everything, including being a drug addict.
In the Senate, Trillanes yesterday said informants had told him that Vice Mayor Duterte visited the BOC twice and Carpio, five times, from late last year to early this year.
“They don’t have the personality to be there. They don’t have any business in the BOC except to fix things, exert influence and endorse people,” he said.
The senator noted that the BOC was a sensitive agency. “If a member of an influential family, in this case they are the first family, you stay away from that area because people would only think that you are there to influence the entry and exit of shipments.”
Trillanes made the statement to reporters after he attended the fifth hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on the P6.4-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) shipment that passed through the BOC in May.
During the hearing, the senator was able to elicit information from a former BOC official who confirmed that Carpio had visited the office of outgoing Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon twice.
Neil Anthony Estrella, resigned head of the BOC Intelligence and Investigation Service, told Trillanes that he saw Carpio once at the bureau.
“I was coming down from my office and chanced upon (Carpio) going out of the office of the commissioner,” Estrella said.
He said, however, that he did not know why Carpio visited Faeldon.
“Anyway, I will be presenting witnesses to attest to the veracity of the information that Paolo Duterte and Mans Carpio went to the BOC,” Trillanes told the committee.
The senator asked Gerardo Gambala, head of the BOC command center, to turn over to the committee closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage since a CCTV system had been installed at the command
Trillanes told reporters that Estrella’s testimony confirmed his information that not only Vice Mayor Duterte but also Carpio were playing a role in the operations at the BOC.
“So this is a family affair of the Duterte family,” he said, adding that in due time he would present witnesses.
Trillanes said the information he got was that “Mans Carpio and Paolo Duterte were influencing the customs operations and they are part of the Davao Group or behind the Davao Group.”
The two men were also engaged in technical smuggling in which shipments were undervalued and misdeclared so these could be easily released from the ports, the senator added.
“They have a special no-look fee, which means that if [brokers] give them [this fee] their shipment would be placed on the express lane and that was why the illegal drugs were able to get past through [customs],” Trillanes said.
Last week, customs “fixer” Mark Taguba testified at a Senate hearing that he paid P5 million to Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr., who reportedly represented the vice mayor, to facilitate the release of his shipments.
After paying the “enrollment fee,” Taguba said he paid P10,000 per container to the Davao Group.
Taguba helped smuggle into the country the P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China in May.
In Malacañang, the President said that if Carpio made visits to the BOC in connection with the case of his client, and not because of graft and corruption, it was understandable.
“That was also my work before. We have to protect the interest of our client. That’s our oath of office as lawyers,” Mr. Duterte said.
“In this [issue about] Mans, I do not apologize for him because he’s a lawyer. And every lawyer knows that. That’s our job. The richer the client, the better. So you can die early—die early or retire early,” he added.
Mr. Duterte said government officials should show his children the door if they came to visit to talk about something.
“Do not allow my son or daughter to enter into your office to talk about something. You can always stand up, open the door and say, ‘Ma’am/Sir, Mr. Duterte, Mayor Duterte, the door is open. Kindly go out,’” he said. —With a report from Allan Nawal in Davao City