Gordon says Senate removed Taguba security because it's expensive

MANILA, Philippines – Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon admitted removing Customs broker and “fixer” Mark Ruben Taguba protection without consulting other members, saying Taguba's security was expensive.

Gordon said Jose Balajadia Jr, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, told him the Senate had been spending a big amount and advised him to end the protection for Taguba, who has implicated the so-called Davao Group, including presidential son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and son-in-law Manases Carpio. 

Kaya ko pinatanggalan [kasi] lumapit sa akin si General Balajadia: 'Sir kailangan pa ba ito? Kasi apat ang tauhan nya. Eh gumagastos tayo ng malaki.' In fact, hiningan pa ako ng P10 [thousand]. Eh ang yaman-yaman na nyan eh. May hotel, may resort, may napadala siya sa Australia. Meron siyang security, bigatin ang abogado. Sabi sa akin hindi naman kailangan,” Gordon said on Sunday, September 10, in an interview with radio dzBB.

(That's why I had it removed because General Balajadia approached me and said: 'Sir do we still need it? Because he has 4 men. We are spending a big amount.' In fact, he asked me P10 thousand. He is already very rich. They have a hotel, resort, he was sent to Australia, he has security, he has a reputable lawyer. I was told it's no longer needed.)

The senator said this happened after his heated argument with opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on August 31. It was Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III who ultimately gave the order as Balajadia's office is under his supervision. (READ: 'Committee de absuwelto'? Gordon, Trillanes face off in smuggling probe)

Yes, hindi naman siya [Trillanes] umangal di ba? Wala namang appeal. Ang nag-aappeal ngayon si [Senator Panfilo] Lacson,” Gordon said. (Yes, Trillanes did no object. No one made an appeal. Only Lacson is appealing now.)

Lacson has questioned the seemingly unilateral decision on Taguba’s security after naming the Davao Group and said committee members were not consulted.

“So gusto ko rin malaman ang flow ng communication kung anong oras, anong araw binawian siya ng dating protective custody kasi it tells a lot. Noong nabanggit ang Davao Group, bakit biglang nabawian siya? Gusto ko rin malaman 'yan,” Lacson said in an interview on Saturday, September 9.

(I would like to know the flow of communication of when the protective custody was lifted, because it tells a lot. When the Davao Group was mentioned, why was the protective custody removed? I would like to know that also.)

Gordon admitted deciding on his own as they were already in a rush. After all, he said committee chairpersons are there to sometimes decide for everyone.

“Palagay ko hindi na e. Ngayon kung ayaw nila e di magmove sila. That's why there's a chairman, the chairman has to make decision minsan tulad nyan nagmamadali tayo,” Gordon said.

(I think there's no need. Now, if they don't want it, they can make a motion. That's why there's a chairman, the chairman has to make decision minsan, like in that case we were already in a rush.)

He, however, did not explain why the committee was in a hurry.

Open to restoring protection?

Lacson said he would talk to Gordon on Monday, September 11, to request that the protection be restored.

Gordon, for his part, said he is open to restore the security of Taguba as long as he presents the supposed “blue book” or a record of people he paid in the Bureau of Customs and the dates when he paid them.

Gordon, however, still expressed doubts, saying Taguba earlier denied the existence of such document. He also maintained Taguba is "not a very excellent” witness.

“Yes, sabihin lang na may bluebook, hayaan mo siya magrequest. Bakit ako magbibigay automatically? Eto naman nagsisinungaling siya na wala siyang bluebook. Paano ko papaniwalaan yan?,” Gordon said.

(Yes, just say he has the bluebook. Let him request it. Why would I give it automatically? He is lying because he first said he has no bluebook. How can I believe that?)

“From the very beginning I said Taguba is not a very excellent witness. pati sa kalagayan na paano mo nakuha yang pera mong yan. Hindi raw alam negosyo ng tatay. Pwede bang hindi mo malalaman [yun],” he said.

(From the very beginning I said Taguba is not a very excellent witness, including how he got his money. He doesn't know his father's business. Is that even possible?)

Gordon also lamented Lacson’s view that the removal of protection prompted Taguba to change his statements and apologize to presidential son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and son-in-law Manases Carpio.

“Mali naman yun. That's unfair. Unang una hindi siya bumaligtad. I always maintain na sinasabi nya hearsay, 'naririnig ko.' That is his opinion pero pag pinilit siya ni Trillanes napapa-oo siya. Hindi credible as evidence yun, hindi admissible yun. Bakit naman nalalagyan ng kulay na naman? Ay wag naman ganun, hindi naman tama yun,” Gordon said.

(I think its wrong. It's unfair. First, he did not recant. I always maintain he is stating hearsay, 'I heard.' That is his opinion, but when pressed by Trillanes, he said yes. It's not credible as evidence, not admissible. Why should it be tainted? It's not right.)

The next hearing is set on Monday, September 11. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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