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Lacson: Why remove smuggling witness from Senate custody?

Lacson noted that the order to remove Taguba from the protective custody of the Senate came after last week’s hearing on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China when he was asked about his knowledge of the Davao group and the alleged involvement of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio in the group. Ping Lacson Staff/Release, File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned the Senate Blue Ribbon committee yesterday on its decision to remove Customs fixer/player Mark Taguba from the protective custody of the Senate, which came after he disclosed details about the so-called Davao group that is allegeldy involved in smuggling in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Lacson noted that the order to remove Taguba from the protective custody of the Senate came after last week’s hearing on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China when he was asked about his knowledge of the Davao group and the alleged involvement of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio in the group.

“Before this week’s hearing, there was another hearing where he mentioned the Davao group extensively during the questioning of (Senator Antonio) Trillanes. I was surprised that after the hearing his protective custody was revoked,” Lacson said over radio dwIZ yesterday.

“So I can just surmise that this is the reason why he came out with a press release retracting everything and issuing an apology. That is my speculation, my conjecture. But it is not without basis,” he added.

Lacson was referring to a statement released by Taguba last week where he said that he had never testified that Duterte and Carpio were involved in the shipment of illegal drugs in the country and in the so-called “tara” system in the BOC.

He also apologized to Duterte and Carpio and the First Family for the proliferation of fake news arising out of his testimony at the Senate.

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Lacson said that he wants to find out the flow of communication for the order to revoke the protective custody of Taguba because “it tells a lot.” 

“When the Davao group was mentioned, why was it suddenly revoked? I’m not accusing anybody, especially my colleagues, but I want to be clarified,” he said.

Taguba said that the Davao group carried a lot of influence in the BOC as far as bringing out cargo from the ports without going through the legal process.

Over the course of the hearings, Taguba said that the Davao group members mentioned the names of Duterte and Carpio, but he had no evidence to show that they were actually involved in the transactions.

Lacson said he was not consulted about the decision to remove the protective custody of Taguba even though he is a member of the Blue Ribbon committee.

Almost all senators are members of the committee and for decisions such as this, he said that this is something that must undergo a vote.

In a separate interview, Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, confirmed that he decided to remove the protective custody of Taguba and that he did not consult his colleagues about this.

He justified his decision by saying that Taguba does not need the protection of the Senate since he and his family have the means to secure themselves.

Gordon said he does not trust Taguba as a witness, which he has repeatedly stated in his various interviews.

“I no longer consulted them because we are short of security personnel. Four people were assigned to him, we are spending for him then he keeps on changing his testimony and he even lies. Why would you protect a liar?” Gordon said.

Lacson said that he intends to move for the restoration of the protective custody for Taguba at the resumption of the hearing of the committee tomorrow.

According to Lacson, he has been in constant touch with Taguba and his father Ruben in the presence of their lawyer to derive more information from them about the tara system or bribery, which is the main source of corruption in the BOC.

Lacson noted that Taguba has a blue book where he keeps all of the transactions he has with the BOC, including deposits and withdrawals at the banks.

He said that Taguba is in the process of consolidating all of his documents and that hopefully, he would testify about this in tomorrow’s hearing.

Former BOC chief Nicanor Faeldon is expected to appear in tomorrow’s hearing where he will be asked about corruption in the agency.

Lacson, who alleged that Faeldon received P100 million as “pasalubong” or welcome gift upon his assumption at the BOC, said that he continues to receive information and evidence about the corrupt activities of the officials and employees of the BOC, including Faeldon.

According to Lacson, his objective in collating all of the evidence and bringing them out is to file cases against the various personalities in court.

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