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Broker links city dad to ‘Davao group’

By: Hannah L. Torregoza

The broker who allegedly played a key role in the R6.4-billion shabu shipment from China that skipped the Bureau of Customs (BoC) scrutiny yesterday confirmed that Davao City councilor Nilo Abellera, Jr. who is close to Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, is one of the members of the so-called “Davao group” and whom he had made transactions with.

Mark Taguba, the purported ‘middleman’ in the controversial shipment, said Abellera is the “Small” whom he earlier identified as part of the group controlling some of the shipments coming and out of Customs.

During the Senate hearing last Aug. 17, Taguba told the panel the members of the group whom he believed were linked to the presidential son and with whom he had transactions with were named “Small,” “Tita Nani”, and “Jack.”

Taguba is one of the nine individuals charged by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in relation to the 604 kilogram of shabu that Customs officials intercepted after passing through the “green lane” and were later seized in a warehouse in Valenzuela City.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV earlier claimed Small was Abellera who was a “close” friend of Paolo Duterte. The senator also showed during the committee hearing, several photos of Small and the vice mayor.

According to Taguba, he met Abellera in Davao City last January to give him P5-million “enrollment fee” to allow his shipments to pass through the BoC “without being alerted.”

He was also required to pay P10,000 per container, an estimated P1-million fee per week since he receives about 100 containers per week.

‘HANDLER OF PAOLO’
Taguba, likewise, showed to the committee a screenshot of “Tita Nani’s” text message to him on Jan. 11 last year, detailing how he was told to make final arrangements with “Jack” who is “the handler of Paolo.”

In the text message, Taguba was told to advance the R1-million so that “Jack” can fly down to Davao to arrange his meeting with “Polong” as soon as possible. “Polong” is said to be the vice mayor’s nickname.

Taguba confirmed the exchange of money took place in a restaurant in Davao City.

Taguba claimed he first dealt with a certain “Jojo Bacud” who claimed to be working with the BoC’s Special Studies and Project Development Committee (SSPDC). He admitted his father, Roel, was the one who introduced Bacud to him.

As per Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the blue ribbon panel, Bacud and Taguba’s father were both former councilors in Cagayan de Oro City.

According to Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, the SSPDC acts as a smuggling task force and works directly under the Office of the Commissioner.

Former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Anthony Estrella told the panel Bacud introduces himself as a Customs officer but is “not in the appearance at the area of the BoC.” Estrella was one of the BoC officials who resigned out of “delicadeza” after the controversy broke out.

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