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Allegations, insinuations at Blue Ribbon inquiry

THERE has been so much talk about a “Davao Group” at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into the smuggling last May of P6.4 billion worth of shabu through the Bureau of Customs and the shipment’s subsequent seizure in a raid on two Valenzuela City warehouses.

During the inquiry, customs broker Mark Taguba testified that he gave a total of P8 million to the group to facilitate the movement of his cargo through customs. He said he gave an initial P5 million as “enrolment fee” to a Davao City councilor, followed by P1 million and then P2 million to one allegedly representing a son and a son-in-law of the President.

Whether R8 million actually changed hands has not been definitely established as the Davao personalities concerned have all denied Taguba’s claims. Taguba himself has issued a press statement in which he said he never testified that the President’s son and son-in- law were actually involved; some people may just be using their names. At the resumption of the Blue Ribbon meeting today, the two will be present but they are not expected to say anything.

The committee can proceed with its inquiry into Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s charge of corruption at the Bureau of Customs with the so-called “tara” system. He said that the P6.4 billion worth of shabu seized in Valenzuela City was able to go through customs because of this system of grease payments. It is feared that other shabu shipments may have managed all these months to go through Customs, thus negating the anti-drug efforts of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

If the Senate inquiry succeeds in shutting down the “tara” system at Customs, it will be a major accomplishment. It will be blocking a major channel through which shabu enters the country.

As for the alleged involvement of a “Davao Group” at the Bureau of Customs, that merits the closest attention not only of the Senate but also of the President himself. For anything even remotely related to Davao is bound to affect him. If all the allegations and insinuations about it are baseless, this should be firmly established. If there is indeed such a group, the President himself will want to take action against it for smearing the name of his city and casting aspersions on its people and its officials.