What could have been an enlightening investigation/hearing on extrajudicial killing related to the Duterte administration’s relentless war on drugs by the Senate Committee on Justice chaired by Sen. Leila de Lima became instead a gruesome tale of killings as narrated by a surprise witness of the latter and self-described assassin belonging to the infamous Davao Death Squad (DDS) during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term as mayor of Davao city.
Edgar Matobato, the 57-year-old killer witness, who admitted he only finished Grade I, testified under oath that he and a group of policemen and ex-communist rebels killed about 1,000 people between 1988 and 2013 on Duterte’s orders — one of them an alleged kidnapper fed alive to a crocodile.
Matobato acknowledged that he himself carried out about 50 deadly assaults as an assassin and admitted having garroted, burned, quartered and then buried at a quarry allegedly owned by a police officer who was a member of the DDS. Others were dumped to be eaten by fish.
It was bad enough that Matobato’s testimony was full of holes but it was even worse that he directly implicated Duterte under oath in a public hearing about the latter’s participation in the killings, not to mention that he also accused Duterte of masterminding the unsuccessful ambush planned for de Lima when she chaired the Commission on Human Rights and was investigating the mayor’s possible role in extrajudicial killings in 2009 in Davao.
Note that as senator, de Lima has been a staunch critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign that has left more than 3,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead since he assumed the presidency in June.
Duterte in turn has accused de Lima of involvement in illegal drugs, alleging that she used to have a driver who took money from detained drug lords.
It is in this context that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre branded as ‘lies and fabrications’ the testimonies made by Matobato when grilled by some senators, thus, prompting him even to say that the attestations by the witness were all product of a ‘fertile and coached imagination’.
What Aguirre was simply trying to point out is that in choosing to entertain and heralding the coming forward of Matobato to testify, de Lima was simply trying hard to divert the public’s attention from her supposed involvement with the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) which is scheduled to be investigated by the House of Representatives pretty soon.
Aguirre said that he will be presenting ‘explosive’ witnesses against de Lima into her alleged role in the proliferation of illegal drugs in the NBP.
I find probing de Lima, a VIP, more interesting, relevant and beneficial for the country than pursuing in probing somebody that is simply used for personal interest and satisfaction.