VP Robredo calls for close watch on killings probe

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo urged the public to closely monitor the investigation into extrajudicial killings amid the controversial revelations of a key witness during the Senate hearing on Thursday, September 15.

"The allegations raised by Senate witness Edgar Matobato are serious. We must exhaust all efforts to get to the truth with due regard for our democratic processes and the rule of law. I enjoin the public to remain vigilant and discerning as the investigation unfolds," Robredo said in a statement.

Matobato, who claims that he is a former member of the vigilante Davao Death Squad, told the Senate committee on justice that President Rodrigo Duterte, when he was Davao City mayor, ordered criminals and his enemies killed. 

He also said that Duterte personally called his men to ambush Senator Leila de Lima in 2009, when she was investigating the mass grave of alleged Davao Death Squad victims as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the testimony was a diversionary tactic of Senator Leila de Lima, who will be the subject of a congressional investigation into the proliferation of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary when she was the justice secretary.

The witnessed also accused presidential son and incumbent Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte of being a drug user, and of ordering the assassination of businessman Richard King in 2015 because of their rivalry over a woman. 

The young Duterte said he would not dignify with an answer the statements of a "madman."

Questionable credibility

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, questioned Matobato's credibility, pointing out that King's death happened inside his office in Vital-C and not at a fastfood chain as claimed by the witness. (READ: Dela Rosa surprised by De Lima's 'Davao Death Squad' witness

He also corrected Matobato when he said that terrorist named “Sali Makdum” was brought to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) in 2002.

Also the former chief of the now debunk PAOCTF, Lacson said that there was no terrorist of that name brought to their custody and that the unit was abolished in 2001.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, for his part, aired his concern that Matobato's credibility is questionable.

"Nararapat na malaman natin kung totoo o hindi ang mga sinasabi niya, at payagan ang Senado na gawin ang kanyang tungkulin. Madaling guluhin ang mga bagay-bagay kapag binabahiran ito ng pulitika," he said in a statement.

(It's just proper for us to know whether his statements are true, and let the Senate do its job. It's easy to twist the truth if it is smeared with politics.) – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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