MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte could be a victim of trial by publicity after being linked to a Filipino-Chinese businessman tagged in the controversial P6.4 billion shabu shipment that reached the Port of Manila.
Photos of Paolo, son of President Rodrigo Duterte, with businessman Kenneth Dong and other friends have been circulating on social media, prompting critics to suggest that the younger Duterte could be involved in illegal activities.
Dong was identified by private customs broker Mark Taguba as the "middleman" of Chinese businessman Richard Tan, whose company in China, Hong Fei, consolidated the goods to be shipped to Manila.
The goods were delivered to Tan's warehouse in Valenzuela where authorities found 604 kilos of shabu worth P6.4 billion.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Paolo’s accusers must show documentary evidence that could prove his guilt.
“Kung talagang serious [ang allegation], then whoever is [knowledgable] in this matter should raise up the issue in the proper venue. Hindi lang yung paikot-ikot kasi siyempre at the end of the day, what does it become? It becomes trial by publicity,” Abella said in a chance interview with reporters.
The President earlier said that he would step down if it is proven that anyone among his children is involved in corrupt practices.
He also dared his son’s accusers to “produce the paper” that will prove his guilt.
The Davao City vice mayor has yet to issue a statement on the supposed photos of him with Dong which surfaced online.
He, however, castigated Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, in a Facebook post on Sunday, for chiming in on the shabu shipment issue.
Trillanes, a critic of the administration, has accused the President of being unusually silent on the issue.
Prior to the issue of his alleged ties with Dong, Paolo’s name was earlier dropped by Taguba in a Congressional hearing for having been allegedly involved in unscrupulous deals in Customs.
At a House hearing on August 7, Taguba mentioned a "Tita Nani" whom he supposedly met through a "Davao Group," when lawmakers asked him to name personalities involved in bribery activities at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
This group, Taguba said, is allegedly backed by a "Vice Mayor." However, he said, those involved could have just resorted to namedropping an official to seal a deal.
In a statement released the following day, the President’s son, who felt alluded to, emphasized that Taguba himself admitted that the testimony against him was based on hearsay.
"Taguba admitted that his testimony against me was based entirely on rumors. Why would we entertain or believe a hearsay? One does not dignify lies with a response," he said.