TESTIFYING anew before the Senate blue-ribbon committee on Tuesday, Aug. 22, broker Mark Ruben G. Taguba II elaborated on his earlier claim, in the previous Tuesday’s hearing by the committee, that he gave bribe money to a so-called “Davao Group” to facilitate the entry of containers from China in the Philippines.
Mr. Taguba is the broker involved in the shipment to the Philippines of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China, which found its way via the Bureau of Customs (BoC)’s express lane.
He said he allegedly gave P5 million to Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera, Jr. in Davao City as “enrolment fee” early this year, in exchange for the easy processing of the shipments in question at the BoC.
In addition to the P5 million, Mr. Taguba said he was advised to pay P10,000 per container for an average of 100 containers per week amounting to P1 million.
He also said he mostly interacted with a certain “Jack” who is supposedly “the handler of Paolo.” This is according to a text message to Mr. Taguba that he read before the committee. Paolo is allegedly Paolo Z. Duterte, the vice-mayor of Davao and son of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
When asked by Senator Antonio Trillanes on how sure he was about the involvement of Vice-Mayor Duterte, Mr. Taguba simply said: “Yun po ang sabi nila.”
Mr. Taguba met Mr. Abellera through another alleged facilitator, a certain “Tita Nanie,” referred to, in turn, by Jojo Bacud of the Special Studies and Project Development Committee of the BoC.
However, the deal with Mr. Abellera fell through after three months when one of Mr. Taguba’s shipments was flagged down. This then led him to a new group involving “Big Brother” “General Capuyan” and a certain Noel.
Mr. Trillanes identified General Capuyan as “Allen Capuyan of Philippine Military Class of 1983.” Mr. Taguba said he was asked to give the new group up to P1 million a week.
But lawyer Mandy Anderson, chief of staff of now-resigned Customs chief Nicanor E. Faeldon, said there is “no Jojo Bacud working at the Bureau of Customs.”
According to Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, he is ready to submit his preliminary report but is still waiting for what Senator Panfilo M. Lacson has to say about Mr. Faeldon.
Mr. Gordon said he may ask Mr. Faeldon back so he can defend himself. The inquiry is scheduled to resume on Aug. 30 and 31 and on Sept. 4. — Mario M. Banzon