President Rodrigo Duterte's son, Paulo Duterte, and his son in law, Manases Carpio, have been accused of participating in the trafficking of 604 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine from China estimated to be worth over $125 million.
The shipment was seized in May in what was considered to be the largest shared crackdown for China and Philippine officials following an investigation in China that located the import near Manila, according to Reuters.
“According to the Philippines side, this case is the largest drug trafficking bust made by the Philippines since China and the Philippines launched cooperation against cross-border drug smuggling,” the Xiamen officials said in the statement reported by The New York Times.
Opponents believe Paulo, the vice mayor of the southern city of Davao, had eased the way of access for the shipments to enter the country where his father has fueled a drug war that has stirred controversy around the world because of his tough-on-criminals approach.
Both Carpio and Paulo have denied any involvement and were told by Rodrigo to attend the senate investigation if they had nothing to hide.
Paulo said he could not comment on "baseless" accusations and invoked his right to remain silent during the senate hearing and stated that his presence at the hearing was for the Filipino people and the people of Davao, where he presently serves as mayor and where his father had served for over two decades, reports Reuters.
Sen. Anthony Trillanes IV said he has intelligence information from an undisclosed foreign country that Paolo Duterte was a member of a criminal syndicate, citing as proof a "dragon-like" tattoo with secret digits on his back, reports Business Insider.
When asked about the tattoo, Paulo confirmed the existence of the tattoo but cited privacy concerns when it came to describing and proving that that tattoo is not related to the drug triad that marks themselves in a similar design.
According to a report by the United Nations, Southeast Asia is the world's largest market for methamphetamine, known by the street name shabu in the Philippines, and is responsible for almost 97 percent of the 5,402 people admitted to drug facilities in 2015, as reported by the Dangerous Drugs Board.
Rodrigo's bloody drug war body count shows more than 3,800 people have died in police operations since July 2016, and more than 2,100 other reported murders are linked to drugs, according to police reports. In his first address to the country, Rodrigo reiterated his stance on drug crimes in his country and those who support them.
“We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish,” he said.
The city of Davao maintains a martial law with curfews and a ban on smoking and drinking, and is surrounded by Islamic terror groups and home to Duterte's famous Davao Death Squad according to The New York Times.
A former officer, Arthur Lascanas, said in February that Rodrigo had sponsored the killings of drug and crime suspects while he was mayor of the southern city of Davao, where his son now serves, something the president hasn't shied away from in his addresses to the country since starting his six-year term, according to The New York Times.
“All the killings that we committed in Davao City, whether they were buried or thrown in the sea, were paid for by Mayor Duterte,” Lascanas said.
The trial against the president's death squad was ended after the senate cited a lack of evidence, reports Reuters.
The presence of Rodrigo's sons, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, "demonstrates that both gentlemen are willing and ready to face malicious allegations intended to impugn their character and credibility.
Sources: Business Insider, Reuters (2, 3) The New York Times (2, 3), Bloomberg, Dangerous Drugs Board, CNN Philippines / Featured Image: Pexels / Embedded Images: Pexels, Presidential Communications Operations Office via Wikimedia Commons