MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A Customs broker who is among the key resource persons in ongoing probes into the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday, August 7, said one of President Rodrigo Duterte's sons was being "name-dropped" by individuals he worked with in the bureau.
Testifying during a marathon hearing by the House committee on dangerous drugs, Mark Taguba, a broker who admitted to paying some Customs personnel grease money to make shipments pass through faster, said several of those whom he worked with name-dropped Paolo Duterte, the President's eldest son.
Paolo "Pulong" Duterte is also the Vice Mayor of Davao City, where his father was mayor for over two decades.
The vice mayor had earlier been linked by former Davao policeman Arthur Lascañas to a shipment of shabu also from China.
During a Senate probe into the Davao Death Squad only last March, Lascañas said that the younger Duterte, who was already vice mayor of Davao at the time (early 2010), asked for his help in speeding up the release of a supposed furniture shipment from China.
Lascañas said during the same hearing that a certain Davao-based "Charlie Tan", whom Paolo Duterte had met in China, asked that he insert "souvenirs" in the container van that the vice mayor was going to ship to Davao City anyway. Paolo Duterte then suspected that drugs – shabu in particular – had been inserted in the container van, Lascañas said.
Tan was supposed to have been arrested on the spot after the van was to be opened, but according to Lascañas, Paolo Duterte instead called him up and said he would take care of Tan himself.
At the House hearing on Monday, Taguba was unable to give the full names of the Customs personnel whom he allegedly transacted with but only provided the nicknames "Tita Nani", "Jack", and "Small".
The 26-year-old Taguba had earlier been granted legislative immunity and was offered security by the House of Representatives as he testified in a legislative probe into how billions of pesos worth of shabu from China made it past the bureau. The loot was later seized by the BOC and other agencies at a Valenzuela City warehouse.
Taguba clarified that he had never spoken to the younger Duterte himself.
The vice mayor's name was mentioned during the hearing, which ended close to midnight, as legislators discussed the so-called "Davao Group" doing business at the BOC office in Davao City.
On Monday afternoon, Taguba, upon the prodding of legislators, pinpointed Customs officials whose offices had apparently been the beneficiaries of "grease money." He later clarified that he did not transact directly with the chiefs of the offices.
All of the Customs officials accused of corruption denied Taguba's allegations.
Last March, President Duterte said in a speech at the thanksgiving party of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban): "'Pag ang anak ko, anyone of them, ma-involve sa corruption, pera ng gobyerno, I will resign. Wala kayong problema sa akin. Delicadeza."