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Gordon, Trillanes clash over Duterte son

WORD WAR Senators Richard Gordon and Antonio Trillanes IV are pacified after their verbal exchange by Sen. Vicente Sotto III. —RICHARD A. REYES

Tempers flared when Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday called the blue ribbon panel chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon a “comité de absuelto” (committee of exoneration).

The Senate committee’s investigation of smuggling into the country of P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) in May has led to the “Davao Group” that allegedly facilitated the smuggling. The group allegedly includes Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and lawyer Maneses “Mans” Carpio.

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Vice Mayor Duterte is President Duterte’s son and Carpio his son-in-law.

The motion of Trillanes to summon the younger Duterte and Carpio to the Senate hearing triggered heated exchanges between him and Gordon and even Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

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At the fifth committee hearing on the shabu smuggling, Gordon not only vowed to file an ethics case against Trillanes but also threatened him with expulsion.

Trillanes said he would “welcome” the filing of an ethics case against him.

Gordon told Trillanes that he had been accusing everybody in the Senate of many things and had tangled with some senators. Trillanes replied that he was accusing only Gordon.

Gordon then reiterated his threat to file an ethics case against Trillanes, telling him “to behave himself otherwise I will put the sergeant at arms before him.”

Trillanes said he was maintaining his objection to Gordon’s “irrational behavior” and “doing a one-man show for several hours.”

Gordon said Trillanes’ problem was “every time he does not like it, he will conduct a coup and he will be forgiven.”

Trillanes was a member of the Magdalo group of junior military officers who launched a mutiny against the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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He shot back at his colleague with a reminder that the latter was “even pathetic” for barricading himself at the Subic Freeport to hold on to his position as chair.

Trillanes was referring to an incident in which Gordon was being booted out as Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chair during the Estrada administration.

The last exchange prompted Sotto to move for a suspension of the hearing to allow things to cool down.

Customs ‘fixer’

Trillanes asked the committee to invite the President’s eldest son and son-in-law after a Bureau of Customs (BOC) “fixer,” Mark Taguba, testified that he had sent to his contact “Tita Nani” text messages that implicated Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio to the Davao Group.

Taguba said he gave a total of P8 million to the Davao Group—P5 million to Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr. as “enrollment fee”; P1-million advance to a certain Jack and another P2 million for Vice Mayor Duterte who Jack said was concerned about the way the group of Taguba’s father was transacting business.

Taguba helped smuggle into the country the 604 kilograms of shabu from China in May.

Trillanes said the committee had “enough information that would warrant the invitation for both Mans Carpio and Paolo Duterte to this committee hearing.”

But Trillanes also noted that he had overheard Sotto, who was at the hearing, that Taguba’s statements were “hearsay.”

The senator then told Sotto that the committee was “not a court” but “an investigative body.”

Lawyering for Paolo

“We are just establishing the truth. We are ferreting out the truth. Let them defend themselves. Let’s not lawyer for them,” Trillanes said, angering Sotto, who denied he was lawyering for the younger Duterte and Carpio.

Sotto explained that he was saying in the background that the committee should study Trillanes’ motion because the statements about the two men were hearsay.

“It does not mean ‘no’ (to the invitation). Don’t accuse me,” he said.

Trillanes said he wanted the younger Duterte and Carpio invited so they could clear their names “unless (the two men) are being treated by this committee as sacred cows.”

As he repeated his motion, Trillanes also wondered why “suddenly” the witness was being badgered.

“Are you accusing the chair or Senator Sotto of badgering the witness?” Gordon asked Trillanes, who replied “if you feel alluded to.”

Gordon then told Trillanes that he was “fond of making general statements” as he reminded that the hearing was not a “cockpit of rumors.” He then suspended the hearing after telling Trillanes that he was “out of order.”

But Trillanes said “the blue ribbon committee is becoming a comité de absuelto.”

When the hearing resumed, Gordon quizzed Abellera on Taguba’s testimony during the previous hearing that he personally handed him P5 million as “enrollment fee” for joining the Davao Group.

Abellera confirmed that he had met only once with Taguba through a certain Jack at a Davao City restaurant bar in January but denied he accepted money from him.

Both Abellera and Taguba said they did not know the last name of Jack, and Gordon said he wondered why Abellera would meet with Jack and even keep  his phone number without knowing the man’s last name.

Taguba said Abellera had told him that he should remit money to the Davao Group properly.

Carpio on Tuesday called Trillanes a rumormonger after the senator accused him of being behind the Davao Group. Vice Mayor Duterte did not respond to the senator’s latest accusation against him.

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TAGS: Antonio Trillanes IV, Customs smuggling, Mans Carpio, Paolo Duterte, Richard Gordon, Senate
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