The son of Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte has denied any involvement with a seized Chinese shipment of 1,300 pounds of crystal meth, worth roughly $125 million.
Paolo Duterte has been accused by opponents of helping to facilitate the entry of the massive shipment into the port of Manila, along with his brother-in-law Manases Carpio. According to Bloomberg Politics, a broker who handled the shipment claimed the smugglers had links with the two men.
Philippine authorities filed charges against the broker, Mark Taguba, in July. At a hearing at the House of Representatives on August 7 he said that he paid one million pesos a week to a group in Davao in the south of the country, where Paolo Duterte is a vice mayor.
He added that while he never met with Duterte or Carpio directly, their names were often mentioned and protection money was accepted on their behalf.
Both men strongly deny the claims. Carpio, who is married to the President’s daughter Sarah, said that he and his brother-in-law “have been publicly crucified based on rumors and gossip.”
“Both gentlemen are willing and ready to face malicious allegations intended to impugn on their character and credibility,” a spokesman for Rodrigo Duterte said. “The president has said in numerous occasions that he would not interfere.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes, who has been a staunch critic of the President’s regime, said that his son Paolo Duterte had a “dragon-like” tattoo with secret digits on his back, which proved his involvement with drug smuggling. Paolo Duterte admitted he had the tattoo, but when asked whether or he’d allow a photo of it to be sent to the DEA for analysis, he said “no way.”
Since coming to power in June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal, bloody campaign against drugs that has left over 9,000 dead. The Philippines President promised a crackdown on crime during his electoral campaign, and said that he would be “happy to slaughter” the millions of addicts in his country.
The United Nations, including U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, have repeatedly condemned Duterte’s government for human rights violations. But, in a phone call prior to his inauguration, Donald Trump praised the “unbelievable job” that Duterte was doing.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” he said. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing, and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
The most amazing thing about the Trump-Duterte exchange is that Trump’s praise of drug war is first topic and it comes up unsolicitedly pic.twitter.com/w0UGlui7lD
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 24, 2017
The past two weeks have been especially deadly, and over 90 people were killed in one three-day span. The murder of a 17-year-old high school student has attracted particular outrage. CCTV footage showed him being frog-marched away by police to be executed, contradicting claims that police only shoot when fired upon.
Duterte has repeatedly said he’ll resign if it emerges that members of his family are involved with drug smuggling or corruption.