Duterte denies alleged 'bribery' attempt of Mighty Corp.

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday denied local cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corporation attempted to bribe him when he was still Davao City mayor.

Earlier, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Sal Panelo told media the company had once tried to hand the President a package full of money.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Duterte confirmed he had ordered the arrest of company owner Alexander Wongchuking over the alleged use of fake tax stamps, but dismissed claims of a bribery attempt.

The President revealed the company had attempted to leave him a "gift" instead.

"There was a Christmas gift. It was a gun during -- last Christmas. Sabi ko, hindi ko tinanggap … And when I was Mayor, hindi naman, wala namang sinabi, basta iniwan lang. May hiningi pabor, sabi ko I am not into it," The President said.

[Translation: There was a Christmas gift. It was a gun during -- last Christmas. I said I wouldn't accept it… And when I was Mayor, It wasn't really-- they didn't really say anything, they just left it. They asked for a favor, I said I am not into it.]

The Mayor said it wasn't strictly bribery, as nothing was stated anything explicitly.

"Pero pag-tindig niya may naiwan doon na parang…Hindi naman, wala naman bribery, kasi wala naman sinabi. Parang gratis. Pinahabol ko kay Bong. Akala ko… kung bote tatanggapin ko. Hindi naman ako umiinom eh, eh 'di binibigay ko lang sa… Pero noong tiningnan 'nong aide ko, pera,"  he said. 

[Translation: He left something… It wasn't-there wasn't any bribery because they didn't say anything. It was like a gratis. I told Bong to give it back. I thought… if this is a bottle I'll accept it. I don't drink so I just give it to… but when my aide saw it, it was money.]

However, the President said he sent the gift back, instructing his aide to go to the airport return it to the person.

The Mighty Corp. bribery allegations came to light after media reported Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Sal Panelo's claimed the company once tried to bribe the President with a package full of money.

Both Mighty Corp. and Mighty Corp. owner Wongchuking's lawyer, Sigrid Fortun, have dismissed the bribery allegations as well as allegations of fake tax stamps.

In its Tuesday statement, the corporation said: "Mighty has never taken part nor has it ever indulged in such activity especially with officers of the incumbent administration."

It also took a jab at Panelo, claiming he is a "victim of misinformation" as he "unwittingly disparaged" Mighty Corp.

The allegations came as the company is placed in hot water after a raid in its Pampanga warehouse revealed cigarettes with fake tax stamps.

The government earns P30 in excise tax per pack of cigarettes. The alleged fake stamps would have deprived the government of more income.

Mighty Corp. has claimed the anomaly may be a result of faulty validating devices.

In its statement released Tuesday, Might Corp. said the devices to validate the stamps used by the Bureau of Internal Revenue are malfunctioning, and produce varied results when used on the same products.

Mighty said the faulty devices were unreliable for assessing the corporation's liability for tax fraud or deficiency in excise tax payments.

It said, however, it would be wiling to cooperate and pay taxes to the BIR, provided the bureau's assessments are both accurate and fair.

CNN Philippines Digital Producers Christian Ver Marcelo and Amanda Lingao contributed to this story