‘Smuggling is a family affair’

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OPPOSITION Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday linked presidential son-in-law Manases Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and nephew of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, to smuggling at the Bureau of Customs.

He also said Carpio received bribes to facilitate the swift entry and release of shipments at the bureau, and said he was behind the so-called Davao Group, along with Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

Carpio immediately denied Trillanes’ allegations, saying the senator was imputing malice in saying that his mere appearance in the BoC had something to do with large-scale smuggling.

“I represent many clients who have transactions with the Bureau of Customs. It is my job as a lawyer to appear before the government agencies for and on behalf of my principals,” he said.

“Senator Trillanes is imputing malice in saying that my appearance before the BoC is because of smuggling. He is just a desperate rumor monger who happens to be a senator,” Carpio added.

Trillanes said the testimony of former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service director Neil Anthony Estrella confirmed the information he got that it was not only the President’s son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, who was involved in the Customs operation but also Carpio.

“So this is a family affair of the Duterte family,” Trillanes said on the sidelines of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing.

Earlier, Estrella said he had seen Carpio in former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon’s office, but could not say what they talked about.

Neither Estrella nor Customs Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambal had seen Paolo Duterte at the BoC, however.

ACCUSATIONS, DENIALS. Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV links Tuesday presidential son-in-law Manases Carpio (left), husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and nephew of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, to smuggling at the Bureau of Customs. President Rodrigo Duterte defended his family in a speech at the oathtaking of newly appointed government officials yesterday.

But in an interview with reporters, Trillanes said his informants told him Carpio visited Faeldon five times late last year to early this year. The senator said Paolo also visited Faeldon’s office twice.

“That was the information I got. Mans Carpio and Paolo Duterte have been influencing Customs operations and they are part of the Davao Group or they are behind the Davao Group,” said Trillanes.

Trillanes, a staunch critic of Duterte, said Carpio had no business being at the BoC.

Trillanes also said his informants told him that Carpio and Paolo received fees for general merchandise, as well as a “special no-look fee.”

Shipments covered by this fee passed through the Customs express lane where shipments could pass right through.

He said “players” at the BoC are aware that the Davao Group controlled by Carpio and Paolo is a “force to reckon with.”

Trillanes also alleged that the P6.4-billion shipment of shabu from China was smuggled in with the help of the two, since they supposedly asked for a “special no-look fee” from importers.

The senator said he will present witnesses to confirm Carpio and Paolo’s visits to Faeldon’s office.

Customs broker and fixer Mark Taguba, who was tagged in the smuggling in of 605 kilos of shabu, revealed in the same hearing that the Davao Group was involved in corrupt activities at the bureau.

Taguba testified that in January, he paid a P5-million enrollment fee to Davao City councilor Nilo Abellera Jr. and a certain Jack, who were introduced to him by a certain Tita Nhanie as members of the Davao Group.

After flying to Davao City, Taguba said he was fetched at the airport by Jack who brought him to Abellera then waiting for them in a restaurant in Davao City. He paid the group P10,000 per container or an estimated P1-million fee per week for his shipments.

Taguba said Abellera is a close friend of Paolo while Jack is the vice mayor’s handler.

Abellera later confirmed meeting Taguba and Jack but strongly denied any involvement in smuggling.

In a letter sent to the panel headed by Senator Richard Gordon, Abellera said he has no knowledge nor any participation in the shipment of shabu from China, which is the subject matter of the Senate investigation.

In a separate letter, Abellera said he was recovering from hypertension and was advised to rest for two to four weeks and to avoid stress.

In his affidavit, Abellera admitted to have “casually met” Jack “sometime late last year or early this year” when the latter requested for a meeting. He said Jack wanted to arrange a meeting with Paolo.

“Knowing that the Vice Mayor does not involve himself with such matters, I politely told Jack that I could not arrange such meeting. It was then that Jack introduced me to his companion who turned out to be Mark Taguba. After about five to 10 minutes, I excused myself from the two gentlemen and left,” Abellera said.

“I never had any transaction or dealing of whatever nature with Mr. Taguba and I never saw or talked to him ever since,” he further stated.

“If it is true that I received millions of pesos from Mr. Taguba in connection with his Customs dealings, he should have called me to complain when his shipments were subsequently subjected to alerts. The fact that he did not shows that I have no transactions or dealings with Mr. Taguba,” he added.

He also denied knowing anyone named “Tita Nani” or “Tita Nannie.”

Sought for comment about her nephew, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said she is not privy to the activities of her relatives.

In the Palace, Duterte said there was nothing wrong with his son-in-law’s visits to Customs.

Earlier, the President disclosed that his son’s transactions at the Bureau of Customs arose from the buy-and-sell business of Paolo’s former wife, Lovely.

Morales vowed Tuesday to deal with any erring relative.

“Certainly, a complaint filed [against] any of my own relatives holding public office will be dealt with as with other similar cases… according to the applicable law and the evidence,” she said in a statement.

She also dismissed Trillanes’ accusations that her nephew received bribes to facilitate the entry and release of shipments at Customs.

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