MANILA - Customs broker Mark Taguba on Tuesday claimed he remitted millions of pesos in grease money or "tara" to Davao City Councilor Small Abellera so that shipments with contraband could slip past port inspections.
During a Senate hearing into the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China last May, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV showed Taguba a photo of Abellera.
The broker then confirmed that Abellera was the same alias "Small" that he earlier tagged among members of the alleged Davao Group.
Taguba said he sought help from Abellera in January when the Bureau of Customs (BOC) issued alert orders for his shipments.
He said he gave Abellera an "enrollment fee" of P5 million in cash when they met in Davao City.
For the next 3 months, Taguba said he paid P10,000 for every container that passed port inspections. He said he handed the fee -which could total P1 million per week- to a certain "Jack."
"Every week po nagbibigay ako kay Jack, lilipad siya dito sa Maynila. Ibibigay ko sa kanya iyung ire-remit ko. Babalik siya ulit ng Davao. Every Friday po iyun," he said.
(Every week, I would give money to Jack. He would fly to Manila, I would remit the money and he would fly back to Davao. That happened every Friday.)
Taguba added that he trusted Abellera and Jack on the assumption that they were close to the President's son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
"Iyun po ang sabi nila," Taguba said.
(That's what they told me.)
Abellera skipped Tuesday's Senate hearing for medical reasons.
Trillanes said in a previous interview with ANC's Early Edition that he wanted Abellera to attend the investigation because Taguba and BOC Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala have claimed the existence of the Davao Group.
The senator said 5 informants "working within Customs and those within the proximity of Customs operations" confirmed that "they’re well-aware of the Davao Group."
"The question is, why would a councilor from Davao City be dealing with some brokers? This Small Abellera is known in Davao City to be very close to Paolo Duterte," Trillanes said.
After Taguba's initial testimony at the House of Representatives earlier this month, Paolo Duterte dismissed as "hearsay" the broker's statements and said he would not "dignify lies with a response."
President Rodrigo Duterte meanwhile earlier said he would resign if any of his children is proven corrupt.