Lifestyle check on Vice-Mayor Duterte, Mans Carpio sought

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is recommending a lifestyle check on presidential son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo "Pulong" Duterte, and his brother-in-law Atty. Mans Carpio over their supposed links to smuggling.

In its draft report, the committee requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct the check after the two were linked to the so-called "Davao Group" that facilitates shipments through the Customs Bureau.

"There are many examples that we are aware where rumors of abuse and close relationships abound, regardless of the administration in power… In this administration, a similar pattern has emerged, with certain members of the First Family being linked to this sordid affair," the report stated.

The Blue Ribbon Committee, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, investigated the P6.4-billion illegal drug shipment from China that slipped through Customs last May.

"The committee decided to: invite the personalities being mentioned, namely, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and Atty. Manases Carpio, and request the NBI to include both personalities in the lifestyle checks being conducted," the report stated.

The report was silent on the possible filing of charges against the President's kin.

The Vice Mayor and his brother-in-law were mentioned in the Senate hearing after Customs fixer Mark Taguba said they were name-dropped by the Davao Group.

Taguba later on cleared the two, saying he had "never testified, nor will I ever testify" that they were involved in what was called the "tara," or a system of payoffs in the bureau, or the shipment of illegal drugs into the country.

READ: Customs fixer now clears Duterte kin of involvement in smuggling, 'tara' system

In a statement, Carpio's wife, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said it was too early to discuss anything given the report was only a draft. However, she said it would be "unreasonable" if the recommendation made it to the final report, saying it was merely based on "chismis" or hearsay from Taguba and "lies" from Senator Antionio Trillanes IV, one of the President's fiercest critics.

In one of the hearings, Trillanes said he had witnesses to testify Pulong and Carpio were present at the bureau several times. However, Carpio said he had many clients in the bureau and the visits were job-related.

READ: Trillanes links Duterte son, son-in-law to 'Davao Group'

Mayor Duterte said they would welcome the investigation by the Ombudsman and the lifestyle check on her husband as it would allow them to “answer accusations” and “put (the issue) to rest.”

She also slammed Trillanes and called him a “paid troll.”

“He is fishing for information with his lies and accusations,” she said. “If indeed he is correct, bakit siya kukuha ng ebidensiya sa amin? Kasi alam niya hindi totoo ang sinasabi niya (Why is he getting evidence from us? Because he knows what he’s saying isn’t true).”

 

Aside from Carpio and Pulong, the Blue Ribbon Committee is also recommending further investigation and lifestyle check on at least 14 other people tagged in the drug shipment.

These include Chinese national Richard Chen, who owns the Valenzuela warehouse where the shipment was found, Davao City Councilor Nilo "Small Abellera," Mark Ruben Taguba II, and businessmen Manny Li and Kenneth Dong.

The Blue Ribbon investigation that began in July also covered corruption and "incompetence" in the Customs Bureau, aside from the proliferation of the payoff system and existence of the Davao Group.

The report recommended the filing of criminal charges against all officers of Bureau of Customs Command Center and other involved personalities.

The Command Center, headed by Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, issued alert orders on shipments and was blamed for the unhampered entry of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China to the Philippines.

It was abolished by new Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña in August.

READ: BOC chief abolishes Command Center

The Senate panel urged for an "overhaul" of the bureau, and proposed a feasibility study on the use of pre-shipment inspection reports from the port of origin to its destination.

It also called for the identification, further investigation, and possible prosecution of personalties "Tita Nanie," Jojo Bacud, "Jack," and Noel, whom Taguba mentioned are members of the Davao Group.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this story.