Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s son has told a Senate inquiry he had no links to a seized Chinese shipment of crystal methamphetamine worth US$125 million, saying any allegations of his involvement in the drugs trade were “baseless”.
His father has enforced a blood-thirsty crackdown on alleged drug dealers and users and encouraged addicts’ parents to have their children killed. His opponents are alleging his son, Paolo, may have helped alleviate the entry of the narcotics shipment at Manila’s docks when it arrived in May.
Duterte said he had told Paolo to attend the senate hearing. The president has faced repeated criticism on the issue.
Last month Senator Leila De Lima, a prominent critic of Duterte, accused him of hypocrisy over his son, saying he was happy to target impoverished drug users but “his silence on the tonnes of illegal drugs that slipped past customs is deafening”. De Lima faced drugs charges herself in February, which she has dismissed as politically motivated.
“I cannot answer allegations based on hearsay,” Paolo Duterte told the Senate. He is vice mayor of Davao on the southern island of Mindanao, where his father was mayor for two decades before becoming president last year.
“My presence here is for the Filipino people and for my fellow Davaoenos, whom I serve,” Paolo said.
The president has said he would resign if critics could prove any members of his family were involved in corruption or the drugs trade.
Duterte opponent Senator Antonio Trillanes showed photos of Paolo with a businessman who organised the shipment that carried the drug consignment.
Presidential son-in-law Manases Carpio has also been accused of involvement with the Chinese shipment. He dismissed the allegations as “rumours and gossip”.
A presidential spokesman said the pair’s willingness to attend the senate inquiry demonstrated that they were “ready to face malicious allegations intended to impugn their character”.
Trillanes claimed overseas intelligence showed Paolo Duterte was a criminal syndicate member and that he had a “dragon-like” tattoo with secret digits on his back.
When asked about the tattoo by senators, Duterte admitted that had a marking but refused to describe it, using his right to privacy.
Trillanes asked if he would allow a photograph of the tattoo to be sent to the US Drug Enforcement Agency for decoding of the secret digits, the younger Duterte replied: “No way.”
He refused to give details of his bank accounts, saying it was “irrelevant”.
The police have rejected allegations that officers and vigilante gangs are executing suspected drug users and dealers, claiming officers have only been shooting suspects in self-defence.
Paolo Duterte, far right, watches as his father takes his oath of office on June 30, 2016. Picture credit: Wikimedia