Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte has denied “baseless accusations” linking him to the P6.4-billion worth of shabu smuggled from China into the Philippines.
During a hearing before the Senate on Thursday, September 7, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV accused Duterte of being a member of the Chinese triad, a notorious group engaged in criminal activities, including drug smuggling.
Citing “foreign intelligence information,” the senator claimed that Duterte’s membership in the syndicate can be proven by the “colored and a dragon-like figure” tattoo on his back.
Duterte confirmed that he has a tattoo on his back but declined to provide details on what it looks like, invoking his right to privacy.
The vice mayor stressed that he would not answer any allegations “based on hearsay.”
“The proof of his membership is the tattoo on his back. That is what will explain all this, and there is a competition among syndicates. That is the physical evidence of his membership in the triad. The tattoo,” alleged Trillanes.
According to the senator, the triad tattoo has “secret digits” that can only be decoded by experts.
“If Vice Mayor Duterte is willing, we’ll take a photo of his tattoo and have it sent to the U.S.-DEA [the United States Drug Enforcement Agency],” Trillanes said.
The senator then repeatedly asked Duterte to reveal his tattoo before the Senate, which the vice mayor again refused, “No way.”
An irked Duterte asked the senator back, “Mr. Chair, how many times do I need to tell you I don’t want to?”
At one point during the hearing, Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, reminded his colleagues to be careful with their allegations “without any basis”
“The Chair would like to counsel everyone here to be very careful because everybody has rights here and the Chair intends to ensure that we respect those rights,” he added.
Gordon said the committee is not inclined to inviting Paolo Duterte and Manases Carpio — who is married to President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Sara, the mayor of Davao — again to the next hearing on Monday, September 11.
In a statement, Malacañang challenged Trillanes to provide “substantial evidence” supporting his “drastic” triad accusation against the presidential son.
“Those are very serious allegations. And he better – he needs to have some pretty substantial evidence to support that statement,” Palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
Duterte’s counsel, lawyer Rainier Madrid, said he advised the vice mayor “not to play the game of Trillanes.”
“We do not want to dignify Trillanes’ accusations and fishing expedition. The issue discussed in the committee is not [the] existence of the tattoo,” Madrid said, dismissing the senator’s claim as mere “propaganda.”
“He’s (Trillanes) a fake. He’s a propagandist and his objective is to manipulate people’s minds, especially the media,” Madrid added.
The lawyer also questioned senator’s sexuality for insisting the vice mayor to reveal his back tattoo, insinuating that the senator could be gay: “Why does he want to see my client’s tattoo? Is he gay? If he’s gay, I may have allowed him to see it.”
Asked whether he had seen the vice mayor’s alleged tattoo, Madrid told reporters: “I have not seen it because I’m not gay.”
“A tattoo is a very private matter. I won’t ask my client to show it to me unless I’m gay and I want to see his body,” he explained.
Madrid went on to say, “He (Duterte) has a tattoo. [A] tattoo is a fad nowadays. Even people in Hollywood, they have tattoos and he was gentleman enough to admit he has tattoos. He’s a young lad, nadadala sa mga uso (swept by trends), but to say he’s a member of triad — that’s too much.”
Apart from being a triad member, Trillanes further accused Paolo Duterte during the hearing of having at least two bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pesos.
The senator alleged that the vice mayor has P104.28 million in his accounts with Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) in Davao City.
Duterte repeatedly refused to confirm or deny owning any accounts in the said accounts. Responding to Trillanes, he asked, “Mr. Chair, do I have to answer this irrelevant question?”
“I refuse to answer anymore,” Duterte added. “This is not part of the inquiry.”
The senator also accused Carpio of P121 million in his bank accounts—which Carpio denied.
“I invoke the Bank Secrecy law,” a smirking Carpio said, referring to Republic Act No. 1405, which states bank deposits are “absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office” without written permission from the account owner or a court order.
Both Carpio and young Duterte refused Trillanes’ request for them to sign a bank waiver.
“I’m not willing to sign the waiver. I’m not familiar with those figures,” Carpio said.
Duterte also remarked, “I have the same answer. I will not sign the waiver.”
In a chance interview after the hearing, Trillanes said he is considering the filing of a complaint against the vice mayor over his alleged ill-gotten wealth after the latter declined to waive his bank secrecy rights.
“We have many plans. We can compel the opening of these accounts by having cases filed against Paolo for ill-gotten wealth because he is a public official and this is not reported in his SALN,” Trillanes told reporters, referring to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth.