IN THE KNOW: P6-B drug smuggling through Customs
During the Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry last August into the smuggling into the Philippines of 605 kilograms of high-grade “shabu” (crystal meth) from China worth P6.4 billion through the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Mark Ruben Taguba II, a customs broker and confessed fixer on the waterfront, linked Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, a son of President Duterte, and lawyer Manases Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of the President, to corruption in the bureau.
Sen. Richard Gordon, the committee chair, placed Taguba, owner of the trucking company that delivered the shabu to a warehouse in Valenzuela City, under protective custody.
During a hearing last Aug. 7, Taguba claimed that he paid off “aides” of BOC officials to speed up the processing of his shipment papers.
Taguba said the aides were part of the “Davao Group” that included someone he identified as “vice mayor.”
He said he traveled to Davao City to meet Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr., who he claimed was close to the vice mayor, and handed him P5 million in cash to facilitate the release of his shipments.
Taguba read to the senators his text message to a certain Tita Nani about his “enrollment” in the system, with the latter replying she would make the arrangement with a certain Jack, the “handler of Paolo.”
The text message also mentioned the arrangement of a meeting with “Pulong,” Vice Mayor Duterte’s nickname.
Taguba said he was told that Abellera was representing the vice mayor.
But last Sept. 1, Taguba issued a statement clearing the vice mayor and Carpio of “any involvement in the shipment of illegal drugs into the country, and any [irregularities] in the Bureau of Customs.”
He also apologized to the two men and the President’s family for the “fake news” that arose from his Senate testimony.
Last November, the Department of Justice exonerated resigned customs chief Nicanor Faeldon and BOC chief intelligence officer Neil Anthony Estrella, but recommended the criminal indictment of Taguba, Chen Ju Long, alias Richard Tan, and Richard Chen, whose company brought in the cargo that included the shabu; Cebu-based businessman Kenneth Dong, who facilitated the entry of Chen’s cargo; cargo consignee Eirene Mae Tatad; and customs broker Teejay Marcellana, among other suspects.
Source: Inquirer Archives
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