Gordon threatens to file ethics complaint vs. Trillanes after clash at Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) —  Senator Richard Gordon said he will file an ethics complaint against Senator Antonio Trillanes following a heated exchange Thursday during the hearing into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment smuggled into the country.

"I will file personally an ethics complaint against the gentleman from Bicol," Gordon said, referring to Trillanes.

The clash began when Trillanes questioned why presidential son Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and presidential son-in-law Mans Carpio had not been summoned to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing, when there was supposedly "enough information" based on Customs fixer Mark Taguba's remarks to do so.

Taguba had linked the two members of President Rodrigo Duterte's family to the so-called "Davao Group," which allegedly had been asking brokers for bribes to hasten the release of shipments from the Bureau of Customs.

During the hearing, Gordon asked Taguba to reveal details of the supposed January 16, 2017 meeting in Davao City. Taguba said he brought with him P5 million in a blue Lacoste bag. Upon arriving in Davao City, Taguba said he met with another contact identified only as "Jack," the alleged "handler" of the Vice Mayor.

READ: Customs fixer: I was asked P5M to meet Paolo Duterte

When pressed for details of where the meeting took place, Taguba said he could not recall, prompting Gordon to warn him not to lie.

Trillanes then said the witness was being badgered. This caught the ire of Gordon, who said Trillanes was accusing him or Senator Vicente Sotto of mocking the witness.

"Are you accusing the chair or Senator Sotto of badgering the witnesses?" Gordon said.

"You're so fond of making general statements. If you want to make general statements you better prove it," said Gordon.

"This is the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. This is not a cockpit of chismis (gossip)," he added.

An irate Gordon declared Trillanes "out of order," banged his gavel, and temporarily suspended the session.

Gordon also took offense after Trillanes said the committee is becoming a "committee de absuwelto," or a body absolving the accused of wrongdoing.

"I will move for your contempt then," Gordon said.

Trillanes clarified he mentioned "committee de absuwelto" while the session was suspended, but Gordon said it was still heard by the public as the hearing was also televised.

He told Sotto as Majority Floor Leader that he is filing a complaint against Trillanes before the ethics committee.

"The chairman would like to tell the gentleman from Bicol to behave himself," Gordon said. Trillanes tried to answer but Gordon would not let him.

Trillanes said Gordon was being "irrational" as the Blue Ribbon committee chairman.

"The Chair has already ruled, you are not recognized," Gordon maintained, turning off Trillanes' microphone at one point.

"I will not answer you. You are out of order," banging his gavel again.

Sotto moved to suspend the session for a few minutes as he tried to calm the lawmakers down.

Trillanes left the session hall but returned when the session resumed.

He earlier said Duterte and Carpio were treated like "sacred cows" by the committee.

"These people are mentioned so I'm just asking that these people be invited," Trillanes added.

Sotto objected saying they may have been accused of corruption at the Bureau of Customs but are not directly involved in the entry of drugs from China.

"Huwag nating ihalo yung mga taong walang kinalaman sa shipment na 'yun," he said.

(Translation: Let's not drag into the controversy people who have no involvement in the shipment.)

Not an empty threat

Later in the evening, in an interview with CNN Philippines, Gordon said he would push through with the ethics rap as he was not one to make idle threats.

The committee chair also clarified that he did not object to summoning the President's son and son-in-law in the next hearing. When such a motion was made, Gordon recalled that he told Trillanes, "You may do so."

Meanwhile, Trillanes also talked to CNN Philippines, pointing out that he was just performing his role as a member of the opposition.

"To say my piece if I feel something needs to be checked," he said. "If I believe na nasa tama ako at kailangan ko tumindig, yung lang ang aking ginagawa [If I believe that I'm in the right and I need to stand up for something, that's what I do.]

He said there was basis to summon the younger Duterte and Carpio, since they have been mentioned during the course of the hearings, and so that they could also be given the chance to clear their name.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.