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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Alan Peter Cayetano challenged the real motive behind the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings — where one witness was implicating President Rodrigo Duterte in summary killings in Davao City back when Duterte was Mayor.

On Thursday, the Senate resumed its inquiry on the spate of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and summary executions in the country. Its key witness was Edgar Matobato, a self-professed member of the shadowy vigilante group Davao Death Squad.

Read: Witness says he killed people in Davao City upon orders of Duterte

One of Matobato's allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte is the latter's ties to hundreds of gruesome summary killings committed by the Davao Death Squad — some allegedly ordered by Duterte when he was city mayor.

Cayetano warned that the probe could be a ploy executed by the Liberal Party — former President Benigno Aquino and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo's political party — to unseat President Duterte.

The senator, who was Duterte's running mate last election, said that there is a possible motive to ruin the reputation of the President to be able to put one of Liberal Party's key members in the country's top position.

"Gusto ko ipakita na merong posibleng motibo ng paninira sa ating Pangulo dito… I'm asking about you [Sen. De Lima], your motive, and the motive of your party [Liberal Party] in this hearing… I am testing whether [the witnesses are credible] or is this part of the 'Plan B' of the Liberal Party para makuha ang Malacañang at manira lang," Cayetano said.

[Translation: I want to show there is a possible motive to destroy the reputation of our President. I am asking about you [Sen. De Lima], your motive, and the motive of your party in this hearing. I am testing whether [the witnesses are credible] or is this a part of the 'Plan B' of the Liberal Party to regain Malacañang and to malign.]

Cayetano hypothetically asked Matobato what will happen if President Duterte is found guilty of heading the Davao Death Squad, following up with a question as to who will replace Duterte if he is impeached.

"Ewan ko lang, sir," Matobato answered.

Unsatisfied with his answer, Cayetano further prodded him, "Hindi mo kilala sino ang Bise Presidente ng bansa? [You don't know the country's Vice President is?]"

 

Related: Malacañang denies Motabato's claims

The Senator then pointed out the members of the Liberal Party in the Senate, including the Senate Justice Committee Chairperson Leila de Lima.

"Imbento lang ba 'to at dinala ka dito para pabagsakin itong administrasyong ito? Sino-sino ang gustong magpabagsak ng gobyernong ito?" Cayetano asked the witness.

[Translation: Are you just making this up? Were you brought to this hearing to destabilize this government? Who are behind the ploy to overthrow this government?]

When Cayetano said there might be a political motive to the hearings, Matobato stressed he was not out to malign the President, and he only wants to tell the truth.

To disprove claims of Duterte's alleged involvement in the killings in Davao during his term as Mayor, Cayetano cited how the local office of the Commission on Human Rights already denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad.

'Offended' Robredo reacts

Vice President Leni Robredo is "offended" by Cayetano's accusations that the Liberal Party is plotting to oust Duterte and that she will benefit if he is removed from power.

"As I have reiterated time and again, it is not good for the country to go through another period of upheaval, where the common Filipino will suffer the most," she said in a statement sent on Thursday.

She also assured the public that she personally said in Wednesday's Cabinet meeting that there is no plan to unseat Duterte.

Related: Robredo denies impeachment plans against Duterte

Robredo also recognized the gravity of the allegations made by Matobato against the President.

'Plan B'

The rumor about the so-called "Plan B" emerged during the election period. Its existence was vehemently denied by Robredo then.

Earlier this week, President Duterte said "yellow forces" are trying to build an impeachment case against him. While he did not name those so-called "yellow forces," the term "yellow" is associated with the Liberal Party as it is the political party's color.

He added the impeachment case will center on killings related to his administration's war on drugs.