Paolo Duterte, son of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, has denied allegations that he is connected with an international drug cartel that attempted to ship $125 million-worth of drugs into the country.
Paolo Duterte testified before a Senate inquiry Thursday and claimed he had no links to multimillion-dollar shipment of shabu (slang for crystal methamphetamine in parts of southeast Asia) from China to Manila in May, describing such allegations as “baseless.”
“My presence here is for the Filipino people and for my fellow Davaoeños whom I serve,” Duterte said, as cited by Reuters, referring to the people of Davao, where his father served as mayor for more than 20 years before his election as president in 2016.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, one of President Duterte’s most vociferous opponents, showed photographs of the president’s son beside the businessman alleged to be responsible for importing the shipment of drugs.
He also cited unspecified foreign intelligence that Paolo Duterte is a member of a crime syndicate while alluding to a “dragon-like” tattoo on his back as proof.
“I cannot answer allegations based on hearsay,” Paolo Duterte, the vice mayor of the southern city of Davao, told the Senate as cited by Reuters.
When asked if a photograph could be taken of the tattoo and sent to the US Drug Enforcement Agency for analysis, he simply replied, “No way.”
His sister, and Davao City Mayor, Sara Duterte took to Facebook to ridicule the line of questioning.
Trillanes also pressed alleged co-conspirator Maneses Carpio and his wife Sara Duterte, daughter of the president, about their private bank accounts which he alleges contain over $2.3 million. Both declined to answer questions citing the right to financial privacy.
“Anyway, if I am wrong the whole world will laugh at me,” Trillanes said, as cited by The Philippines Inquirer.
One of the hallmarks of President Duterte’s time in office has been the extremely violent crackdown on both drug users and drug dealers. Official records show that more than 3,800 people have died in police raids since July 2016, though Human Rights Watch claims the figure is closer to 7,000.
President Duterte has vowed to resign if his critics could prove any of his family members were involved in corruption. However, he is known to have made about turns on controversial statements made in the past.