Senators punch holes on assassin’s claims

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UNDER PRESSURE. Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman, wipes his face with his hand as he testifies at the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings, in Manila on September 22, 2016. AFP PHOTO by Ted Aljibe

SENATORS on Thursday saw some inconsistencies in the previous testimonies given by self-confessed former member of the vigilante group, Davao Death Squad (DDS), Edgard Matobato during the fourth senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings.

Senators cross-examined Matobato on Thursday who previously cited President Rodrigo Duterte as having had ordered killings in Davao City during his term as mayor.

Thursday’s hearing was led by new Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon, who replaced former Chair Leila de Lima after she was ousted last Monday (Sept. 19).

CHR absent

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao moved to declare vacant the justice committee membership after De Lima presented surprise witness Matobato without informing other senators who were members of the committee.

It was evident that representatives from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were not present despite usually being present when De Lima was Chair. The reason for their absence was not stated.

Gordon gave the senators a rundown of the senate rules, including reminding senators that surprise witnesses were no longer allowed in the Senate floor. He also reminded senators to maintain order and limit their questions to the allotted 10-minuute time frame.

Before Matobato reappeared in the session hall, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson began by asking De Lima who invited the witness to appear before the committee the first time last Sept 15.

Mystery person

De Lima did not give a clear answer but explained that that a person, she did not name, had contacted her as early as Aug. 29, which led to her later meeting Matobato in a safe house last Sept 2.

Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV also confirmed that it was he who now provided Matobato with safety and security. He earlier said that there were “good Samaritans” who helped him out.

On the other hand, Senate Alan Peter Cayetano grilled Matobato for saying that alleged terrorist Sali Makdum, one of DDS’ victims, was killed upon orders of the President.

Matobato denied that he previously said that it was the President who personally gave orders to kill Makdum, but explained that it was the Duterte’s right-hand-man, SPO4 Arthur Lascaña who told him the orders came from him. He also revealed that Makdum was his wife’s cousin.

Inconsistent

Cayetano meanwhile complained about Matobato being inconsistent on his testimony about Makdum to which De Lima interjects and asked senators not to be “too strict” on the witness.

While it was his turn to question Matobato, Gordon also called out Matobato for looking at direction of De Lima, Trillanes while he was being questioned.

He also admonished Trillanes for making side comments while Matobato was being questioned and threatened to cite Matobato in contempt.

Pacquiao, like Cayetano, also reprimanded him for his inconsistencies pointing out that no one would believe him if he maintains to be inconsistent. He believed that Matobato had a “coach” , teaching him what to say.

— Philippines News Agency

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