Is Paolo Duterte involved in large-scale smuggling?

This is not the first time politicians and “those in the know” heard of Paolo Duterte’s name linked with smuggling activities at the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The fact is, his name has cropped up several times in the past, even before his father, Rodrigo Roa Duterte became president. Just like his youngest brother Baste, Paolo’s name has been used and sometimes abused by several carpet-baggers. And like all other else happening here in this country, people often say that there’s no smoke without fire.

Paolo’s name first cropped up when smuggling activities spiked in Davao during these times when the city is managed by the Dutertes. Check news reports on smuggling in Mindanao, and you’ll find a bevy of articles showing how vibrant the smuggling is in this city. Sources within the bureau share and swap stories about how smuggling is very visible on ports outside NCR. The identified ports include Clark/Subic, Cagayan, Cebu, and Davao. You’ll hear the name of the Enriles being mentioned in Cagayan while a close First Gentleman associate named Tina Yu controls Manila and the Clark/Subic ports. It is only in Davao that, curiously, there’s only one name being mentioned here and that is of Paolo’s.

Mark Taguba has named Paolo as the head of the Davao Group which throw their weight around the Bureau. Of course, Taguba is choosing his words very carefully. By ratting out people even those who are operating in the bureau for years already, Taguba had practically ended his brokerage career. He has foolishly thrown all his gems before Congress, and gave legislators enough ammunition to call for the resignation of Faeldon’s group. Unknown to Taguba, Faeldon’s group actually protects him from other more lethal and more dangerous groupings within the bureau.

By ratting out Paolo’s name, the smuggling issue which involves 6.4 billion peso worth of shabu is getting more interesting. Operatives have discovered several other cannisters which were part of the shipments, emptied of their contents. This means that there are at least 15 billion pesos worth of shabu flooding the streets not just of Metro Manila, but of the entire country.

Totally impossible for such a big haul without the involvement of big names. This shipment can’t be the handiwork of small timers—this can only be thru the Triad. The Asian triad has been operating in the Philippines for years. Several politicians and government officials are suspected of providing them with protection. Who are these people remains a deep secret? I seriously doubt it. Our authorities know who these people are, but they are adamant of moving against them because of fear of the consequences.

There is talk about the “presence” or “shadow” of a “big man” at the Bureau of Customs. During the time of the Arroyos, it was the foreboding shadow of the First Gentleman. When the Aquino boys came, allegedly the name of the Executive Secretary, one of the closest associates of President Aquino III, was the most spoken of name within the bureau. And now, Paolo.

President Duterte promised to resign if one of his relatives is identified as involved in illicit activities. When talk about Paolo’s name surfaced, Duterte changed his tune and dared accusers to come out with an affidavit. Of course, who would dare file an affidavit against the Dutertes? It is like signing one’s death warrant.

A December 2007 report by the Presidential team on anti-smuggling as well as another report filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the involvement of Paolo Duterte on smuggling activities. Based on these reports, Paolo, thru several people, smuggled SUVs, rice, sugar and other stuff using the Davao ports.

Of course, the President would try to raise a defense saying that these things were in the past, and Paolo is not doing it anymore. If that is so, then, why is Paolo’s name so resonant in the ears of smugglers that Paolo’s name is now the magic mantra or the password so to speak that one uses to gain access to the riches within the bureau?

This is serious. And the President is not even lambasting people behind the smuggling of these shabus, which Senator Ping Lacson finds intriguing. Instead of spewing his usual curses and highly creative language, Duterte seemed mum and even trying to divert the issue, accuses Senator Leila de Lima.

With Duterte’s behavior, the president is not just being insensitive but raising public suspicion of his and his family involvement in corrupt and abusive practices, which, if Duterte does not yet know, led to the downfall of his idol, the Marcoses in 1986.

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