Witness' allegations vs Duterte must be probed – minority lawmakers
MANILA, Philippines – Two lawmakers from the House of Representatives' so-called "Legitimate 8" minority bloc said the accusations against President Rodrigo Duterte during the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings appear to be an attempt to discredit Duterte, but should be investigated.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr called the testimony an "attack" against the President.
"More than anything else, this is an attack on the President's credibility to lead. His track record in Davao wasn't given much scrutiny during the campaign except for whispers about [the] DDS (Davao Death Squad)," said Baguilat in a text message on Thursday, September 15.
Edgar Matobato claimed before senators that he was a member of the "Davao Death Squad" and that Duterte instructed them to execute people in Davao City, where the President was a longtime mayor.
Matobato said the victims include broadcaster Jun Pala as well as those who were killed in the Davao Cathedral bombing in 1993. (READ: TIMELINE: Witness lists killings allegedly 'ordered by Duterte')
The Senate witness also claimed that Duterte's son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte ordered the killing of Cebuano businessman Richard King in 2014. (READ: Lacson questions witness testimony on Richard King slay)
Duterte's allies in the House have cast their doubts on Matobato's credibility.
But according to Baguilat, the "alleged atrocities" of the Davao Death Squad should be subjected to a public forum.
"We can't take yet this as gospel truth. I will not condemn so easily. More investigations are needed to validate facts," said Baguilat.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin shared the same view.
"These are serious allegations that should not be dismissed outright. Let the proper investigative agencies led by [the] DOJ (Department of Justice) look into this. If crimes were committed by these death squads, the police should look into their operations and its very existence. If the government does nothing, people might say it is hiding something," said Villarin.
Baguilat also hopes that Malacañang will not brush the issue aside. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar already said the President is "not capable" of ordering extrajudicial killings.
But Baguilat said, "Because even if he's immune from suit, if the testimony is factual and stronger evidence comes to light, there may be grounds for impeachment."
Villarin also advised Duterte to be "circumspect and presidential" once he decides to respond to the allegations himself. – Rappler.com
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