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De Lima urges Senate not to shield Duterte kin in Customs mess

In this Sept. 9, 2017 photo, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law, lawyer Mans Carpio, appear before a Senate panel looking into corruption at the Bureau of Customs and the shipment of P6-billion worth of illegal narcotics from China. Senate PRIB/Romy Bugante

MANILA, Philippines — The power of Senate could be an instrument to find out the truth, but could also be a tool to bury it.

The detained Sen. Leila de Lima stressed this point on Tuesday as a response to the removal of protective custody granted to Customs broker Mark Ruben Taguba.

“The recent revelation by Sen. Lacson that Mark Taguba’s change of heart came at the heels of his removal from Senate’s protective custody is a different level of betrayal of the Senate as an institution, of its mandate under the Constitution and of its duty to the people,” she said.

De Lima, writing from detention, called the withdrawal of protective custody to Taguba a “grave and shocking act of turning the Senate’s powers and prerogatives into weapons of oppression, tyranny and impunity.”

She noted this act of “intimidation” is not only directed to Taguba, but also to the Filipinos.

“If you cross the Duterte Royal Family, there is no protection available to you. Not in the PNP, not in the DOJ, and not even in the Senate. You seek truth at your own peril,” De Lima said, noting she learned the hard way.

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Restored protection

Still, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Monday restored the protection for Taguba after accepting the motion of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who questioned the removal of protective custody.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Lacson speculated the stripping of Senate protection was the reason why Taguba issued a statement clearing Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and brother-in-law Manases Carpio from the Customs mess.

“After that hearing, [Taguba] was surprised that he was stripped of the protective custody. So I can only surmise that it is the reason why he released a statement recanting his statements and apologizing [to Duterte and Carpio],” Lacson said.

Sen. Richard Gordon on Sunday admitted removing the protection granted to Taguba without consulting other committee members.

He cited the big spending for Taguba’s security as the reason.

Fair treatment of witnesses

De Lima lamented how the Senate refused to extend protection to confessed hitman Edgar Matobato but granted protective custody to professed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

Matobato, who claimed to be a former member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, accused the president of ordering the killings of criminals and enemies when he was still the mayor of Davao City.

She also slammed her colleagues for not reprimanding the younger Duterte and Carpio for their “contemptuous” answers during the Senate hearing on alleged illegal drugs smuggling and corruption in Customs.  

During the hearing, Paolo Duterte repeatedly invoked his right to self-incrimination, refusing to respond to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s queries. He was also seen sighing and smirking as Trillanes spewed his allegations.

The detained legislator urged her fellow lawmakers to use the Senate’s power to find out the truth, not to protect President Duterte and his family.

“I call on my colleagues to find it in themselves to use the Senate’s power, not to protect the President and his family, but to truly, honestly and sincerely find out the truth: who are the people behind this large shipment of shabu from China?” De Lima said.

She added: “Mahiya naman tayo sa sambayanang Pilipino.”

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