A Davao City councilor confirmed Thursday meeting Customs broker Mark Taguba in a Davao restobar but denied accepting a P5 million bribe from the latter to arrange a meeting with Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
Speaking before the Senate inquiry, Davao Councilor Nilo "Small" Abellera confirmed that he met Taguba after a certain "Jack" asked the councilor for a meeting at Casa de Amigos restobar about 5 kilometers away from Abellera's home.
In his testimony, Abellera said "Jack" told him that a Customs broker was asking for help to set up a meeting with Duterte, who is Abellera's close friend.
"Pwede ko ba daw matulungan yung kaibigan niyang Customs broker," he recalled Jack as saying. "Known naman sa Davao na magkaibigan kami ni Paolo Duterte."
He said that after he turned down Jack, the latter introduced him to Taguba who was also with them.
However, he denied Taguba offered him a P5 million "enrollment fee" during the meeting and said he left after 5-10 minutes.
Under questioning, Abellera said he does not know Jack's last name or the company he represents but said he meets a lot of people in his duties as a politician.
He also confirmed that he has Jack's phone number and that he gave his own number to Jack.
Abellera denied there is a "Davao Group" led by Duterte, which has a hand in alleged smuggling activities in the Bureau of Customs.
"Wala po akong alam na Davao Group, sir," he said.
For his part, Taguba said the meeting with Jack and Abellera in Davao City lasted over an hour and not a few minutes. He said that at the start of the meeting, Jack and Abellera were talking about another Customs broker who had failed to remit monies to the group.
"Mark, kung tatanggapin ka namin sa grupo namin, dapat magremit ka ng tama kasi may broker kami na hindi nag re remit ng tama. Sabi nila, napapagalitan po sila," he recalled Abellera as saying.
In a previous testimony, Taguba said he sought the help of a certain "Tita Nani" and "Jojo" sometime in January when the Bureau of Customs (BOC) issued alert orders for his shipments.
He claimed Tita Nani and Jojo arranged his meeting with Abellera whom he allegedly paid P5 million in cash as a one-time "enrollment fee."
For the next 3 months, Taguba said he paid P10,000 for every container that passed port inspections. He said he handed the fee every Friday to "Jack."
"Ang hinala ko, hindi na nila nare-remit, hindi na nakakarating ang pera," he said.
(I suspect they were no longer able to remit the money.)