Committee de abswelto? Senators clash over Duterte relatives

Senators Richard Gordon and Antonio Trillanes IV are pacified by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III after the two argued over the need to invite President Duterte’s son Paolo and son-in-law Manases Carpio to a hearing on the P6.4-billion smuggled shabu. GEREMY PINTOLO

Committee de abswelto? Senators clash over Duterte relatives

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 31, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - Senators Richard Gordon and Antonio Trillanes IV got into a heated argument yesterday over alleged attempts to whitewash the Senate inquiry into the smuggling of some P6.4 billion worth of shabu last May.

The quarrel was triggered by Trillanes’ remarks that members of the committee were “lawyering” for the family of President Duterte, whose son Paolo and son-in-law Manases Carpio were accused by the senator of being involved in smuggling in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Trillanes earlier moved to summon Paolo, who is vice mayor of Davao City, and Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, after they were tagged by broker Mark Taguba as facilitating shipments at the BOC as leaders of the so-called Davao group.

Taguba was one of the brokers who facilitated the shipment of steel printing cylinders later recovered in two warehouses in Valenzuela City and were found to contain 604 kilos of shabu by operatives from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service.

Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, however, cautioned against the move, saying Taguba’s statements were mere hearsay.

“You keep on naming names and making general statements. If you make general statements, you better prove it. This is the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, not a cockpit of tsismis (gossip),” Gordon told Trillanes, who was seated beside him.

Gordon said the panel was “here to investigate real things,” adding Trillanes wanted to divert the investigation from the drugs smuggling issue to attacking the administration.

Trillanes retorted by calling the panel a “comite de abswelto (committee of absolution),” to which Gordon responded by asking Sotto to convene the ethics committee to investigate the former Navy officer.

Gordon cited incidents in the past where Trillanes’ behavior got him into trouble with his colleagues, including Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, with whom he nearly got into fisticuffs.

Trillanes initially objected to the motion to have him probed but Gordon said: “You can’t do that (object)…there’s such a thing as disrupting legislative proceedings.”

He moved to cite Trillanes in contempt and warned him to behave lest he order the Senate sergeant-at-arms to haul him out of the session hall.

The quarrel continued with Trillanes calling Gordon’s conduct as chairman “irrational” and a “one-man show.”

Photo shows Davao councilor Nilo ‘Small’ Abellera Jr. testifying at the Senate yesterday. GEREMY PINTOLO

“The trouble with this gentleman is every time he doesn’t like things, he will conduct a coup and then he will be forgiven and he will conduct another coup and then he’s forgiven again,” Gordon said, referring to Trillanes as the ranking member of the Magdalo group of military coup plotters.

Trillanes responded by saying Gordon was “pathetic” when he had Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority premises barricaded in the late 1990s to keep his position as head of the SBMA.

Sotto intervened and asked Gordon to suspend the hearing for a few minutes. The three were seen arguing during the break.

Trillanes later told reporters that he was willing to face any investigation in the chamber even as he mocked Gordon as being “all yakking.”

Gordon vowed to file next week a resolution to investigate Trillanes, who he said got away with his misdeeds by apologizing to senators he quarrels with and then hits them again.

He strongly denied he was protecting President Duterte.

Preliminary report

During the hearing, Davao City Councilor Nilo Abellera denied allegations that he received P5 million from Taguba purportedly to facilitate his shipments through the BOC with the help of the Davao group.

Abellera admitted to meeting Taguba twice on Jan. 16 this year after being referred by a certain “Jack” but denied getting any money from the broker.

The panel subpoenaed the security videos in the restaurant in Davao City where the turnover of cash allegedly took place.

Gordon wrapped up the inquiry into the drug smuggling and said he will present a preliminary report next week.

However, Gordon merely “suspended” the inquiry as the panel will resume its hearings on Sept. 25, this time into allegations of Sen. Panfilo Lacson of corruption in the BOC.

He said the report will likely recommend the filing of drug importation charges against Taguba and eight others.

Gordon said the report would likely hit some Customs officials for incompetence that led to the drugs slipping into the country.

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