Duterte: I would advise Pulong to remain silent at Senate hearing

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Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte (L), President Rodrigo Duterte

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — President Rodrigo Duterte said his son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, should face the Senate probe on the ₱6.4-billion of shabu from China that was smuggled into the country.

LOOK: How P6.4B-worth of shabu was shipped from China to PH

But he said the members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, especially fierce Duterte critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, should not expect a word from the local executive.

"Ang advice ko kay Pulong? Punta ka doon [My advice to Pulong? Go to the hearing]," the President told reporters early Sunday morning.

"And then pagdating mo, dun sa questions, sabihin mo, "I will not answer you."" He added, ""I'm invoking my right of silence kasi noong eleksyon pa, hindi pa Presidente tatay ko, binibira mo na kami. So if you want evidence, do not get it from the mouth of other people. Go somewhere else.""

[Translation: And then when you get there, when they ask questions, just say, "I will not answer you. I'm invoking my right of silence because since the elections, my father was not yet President, you have already been hurling accusations at us. So if you want evidence, do not get it from the mouth of other people. Go somewhere else."]

Duterte said invoking one's right to remain silent is "perfectly all right," even in the face of a contempt charge from the Senate.

"When a person invokes a Constitutional right, you cannot infer anything wrong there," he said. "And you cannot force a person to testify. All you have to do is to send a letter. We are not answering your questions. I will not submit to an investigation. For what? You are on a fishing expedition."

Alleged smuggling links

The President's statement came after Trillanes said on Tuesday that the vice mayor and Mans Carpio, the President's son-in-law, were involved with the so-called "Davao Group," which allegedly accepted bribes to help move shipments through Customs without scrutiny.

Read: Trillanes links Duterte son, son-in-law to 'Davao Group'

Customs fixer Mark Taguba said on Aug. 22 that he gave ₱5 million to the Davao Group so that he could meet Vice Mayor Duterte.

Read: Customs fixer: I was asked ₱5M to meet Paolo Duterte

However, Taguba on Friday cleared Vice Mayor Duterte and Carpio of their involvement in corruption at the Customs bureau.

Read: Customs fixer now clears Duterte kin of involvement in smuggling, 'tara' system

Trillanes said on Friday Taguba was "pressured" to change his statements.

"Therefore, Mr. Taguba's clarification doesn't change anything, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Atty. Mans Carpio should still appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee," he said.

The Trillanes-Duterte feud

Trillanes and the Dutertes have been bitter political foes since the 2016 elections.

Trillanes, a former naval officer who ran for Vice President and lost, accused then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of allegedly having ₱211 million deposited in the Bank of the Philippine Islands branch along Julia Vargas on Ortigas Center, Pasig City, which was undeclared in Duterte's 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN.

Read: BPI on Duterte-Trillanes row: We had nothing to do with it

During the campaign, Duterte revealed his bank records, which showed two BPI accounts with ₱17,000 and around ₱24,000.

Read: Duterte presents peso, dollar accounts

The Anti-Money Laundering Council and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas decided not to investigate the matter further.

Read: Duterte lashes out at Bangko Sentral, AMLC over bank account controversy

Trillanes also strongly criticized the Duterte administration's controversial war on drugs, calling on the International Criminal Court to look into the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in the campaign.

Read: Trillanes, Alejano urge international court to look into Duterte's drug war