Cayetano doubts, De Lima stands by Matobato's credibility

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(File photo) Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Leila de Lima

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A self-confessed former member of the Davao Death Squad dropped a bombshell at a Senate hearing Thursday – when he alleged having received orders from President Rodrigo Duterte himself, then Davao City Mayor.

Edgar Matobato, 57, took the witness stand as the Senate probed the spate of killings in the country's drug war.

Matobato said he was part of a group formerly called the Lambada Boys, now known as the DDS, hired by the local government to kill criminals in Davao City.

READ: Witness: I killed people in Davao City upon orders of Duterte

He said the group slaughtered around 1,000 people since 1988, among them Muslims, criminals, and drug suspects –including minors aged 15-17 who were addicted to "rugby" (glue).

He said some of the suspects turned out to be innocent.

"Parang manok ang tao sa Davao City pinapatay nang walang dahilan," Matobato said.

[Translation: People in Davao City are like chickens who are killed for no reason.]

After killing around 50 people himself, Matobato said he could not bear his conscience anymore. This prompted him to leave the group in 2013 and eventually subjected himself to the Justice Department's Witness Protection Program.

Cayetano: Allegations meant for Duterte ouster

The senators were not quick to believe Motabato, especially Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cayetano, Duterte's former running mate in the May 9 elections, told the Senate hearing he sees a political motive behind Motabato's appearance.

"May posibleng motibo sa paninira sa ating pangulo [There is a possible motive to destroy our President]," Cayetano said, after asking Motabato if he knows who the Vice President is and who the members of the Liberal Party in the Senate are.

Motabato said he knows nothing about the political parties.

"Hindi ko sinisiraan si President [I am not slandering the President]," Motabato said. "Walang nag-utos sa akin na tao [No one ordered me]," he told Cayetano who suspected a drug lord or oligarch who has grudges with Duterte may be behind Motabato.

Cayetano also read before the Senate a letter from the Ombudsman to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Chito Gascon saying "there is no evidence to support the killings attributed to or attributable to the DDS."

It also dismissed the alleged involvement of Duterte and police officials in the killings in Davao City.

But Motabato maintained the DDS exists, because he was once part of it. Cayetano grilled Motabato long enough for Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to make a motions placing Cayetano out of order. Trillanes said Cayetano had consumed a lot of time in the Senate hearing.

"Is this just a demolition job against Duterte?" Cayetano asked.

"We're talking about the President of the Philippines, there is international media here…. What is 10-15 minutes to get to the bottom of this?" Cayetano said.

Related: Liberal Party's 'Plan B'? Cayetano says EJK probe might have political motive

Cayetano also questioned how Motabato left the Witness Protection Program and how he got into the Senate inquiry, when he was hiding in provinces and claimed to have no cellular phone, television or other access to news.

Cayetano warned to cite Motabato for contempt when he refused to give the names of his friends who helped him go to the Senate.

 

De Lima: Matobato still credible

Sen. Leila De Lima, chairman of the Senate Committee of Justice and Human Rights leading the probe, called for an executive session so Matobato can tell all without fear of jeopardizing the safety of the people who helped him.

Speaking before reporters after the Senate hearing, De Lima said she does not question Motabato's credibility.

"Hirap siya sa mga dates [He finds it hard to remember dates]," De Lima said. "But it doesn't mean nagsisinungaling siya [But it doesn't mean he's lying]," De Lima added.

Inconsistencies

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also pointed out inconsistencies in Matobato's statements.

For one, Matobato said Davao City Vice Mayor and presidential son Paolo Duterte ordered the killing of Richard King in 2014 "because of a girl." He said he was shot to the head at close-range inside a fast food chain.

Also read: Paolo Duterte slams Matobato's claims

But, after searching on the Internet about King's death, said the businessman was killed inside his office.

Lacson warned Matobato to be careful on the accuracy of his claims.

"Pwede kayong makulong dito [You can be jailed here]… you are under oath."

Trillanes told reporters the Senate will invite Vice Mayor Duterte in the next hearing on Tuesday.