President Rodrigo Duterte's son and son-in-law yesterday denied links to $168.5 million worth of narcotics smuggled through the Philippines' main port, calling allegations of their involvement in the drug trade "hearsay".
Appearing before a Senate inquiry, Mr Paolo Duterte and Mr Manases Carpio said they were being "publicly crucified based on rumours and gossip".
Mr Paolo Duterte, 42, and Mr Carpio, husband of the President's daughter, Sarah, were answering to charges that they facilitated the shipment of 604kg of crystal meth from China in May.
The broker who handled the shipment told senators in a previous hearing that the cargo was for a drug-trafficking group claiming to have ties with the younger Mr Duterte and Mr Carpio.
He said he had been paying the group one million pesos (S$26,440) a week so that his containers could bypass Customs inspections. He later clarified in a statement that he had never met or directly dealt with Mr Paolo Duterte or Mr Carpio.
The claims against President Duterte's family members drew strong interest as he has repeatedly said he will resign if any family member is found to be corrupt.
The elder Duterte rose to power last year promising to wage a bloody crackdown on drugs. Police have killed some 3,800 suspected drug traffickers and users, while human rights advocates say the death toll is closer to 13,000, including those killed by unnamed vigilantes.
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes insisted yesterday that Mr Paolo Duterte is a member of the Chinese triad, claiming that a dragon-like tattoo with special digits on his back will prove this.
Mr Paolo Duterte admitted he has a tattoo on his back, but when asked by Mr Trillanes if he was willing to have a picture of it taken and sent to the US Drug Enforcement Agency for analysis, he replied, "No way."
His lawyer later told reporters that Mr Paolo Duterte was willing to show the tattoo, but he advised him against it.
Mr Rainier Madrid said he did not want his client playing Mr Trillanes' "game", accusing the senator of "fishing, propaganda and deception".
Mr Trillanes has been pushing to have President Duterte investigated for purportedly amassing millions worth of undeclared wealth and for his role in over 1,000 people killed by "death squads" when he was mayor of Davao city for over two decades.