Trillanes on Davao killings: Duterte a 'mass murderer'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday, September 26, called President Rodrigo Duterte a "mass murderer" for allegedly being directly involved in thousands of killings supposedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad (DDS).

Trillanes, one of Duterte's staunchest critics in the Senate, delivered a privilege speech defending witness Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the DDS, who accused the President of ordering killings when he was Davao City mayor.

"Now that we have seen the different corroborating evidence on the testimony of Mr Edgar Matobato, we are faced with a very frightening prospect – that of having a mass murderer as president of the country," Trillanes said.

The senator then moved that his speech be referred to the Senate blue ribbon committee, so that it could investigate Duterte for being the "mastermind" of extrajudicial killings.

Trillanes said the public has long heard about Duterte's alleged links to killings but has chosen to look the other way. This time, however, Trillanes said the people can no longer ignore it because of Matobato's testimony. (READ: Duterte is 'Ampatuan of Davao City,' 'Pablo Escobar of PH' – Trillanes)

"With this, this august chamber is at a crossroads and the whole world is watching our next step. On one hand, we can sweep these very serious allegations under the rug or we can decide to fulfill our mandate in our system of checks and balances by expanding our investigation to rule out that possibility that indeed we have a mass murderer as president," the senator added.

Trillanes has been a critic of Duterte since the 2016 campaign. It was him who exposed the alleged secret bank accounts of Duterte and his family.

Hearsay, half-truths

But just as the motion was about to be acted upon by the plenary, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano – one of the staunchest allies of the President – stood up and interpellated Trillanes.

Cayetano said Matobato's testimony was filled with "half-truths" and "hearsays." (READ: Cayetano, Pacquiao grill Matobato over conflicting claims)

"Every time we look at [his] testimony, he jumps from pretending personal knowledge going to hearsay," Cayetano said.

But Trillanes defended the witness, saying Matobato only finished Grade 1 and cannot read and write – something that still did not convince the Duterte ally.

"If I use half-truths and misleading questions, that's allowed... ang hindi allowed ay yung witness na 'di sasabihin ang katotohanan (what's not allowed is for a witness not to tell the truth)," Cayetano said.

The Nacionalista Party members turned rivals had a long, heated discussion on the floor, which prompted Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to suspend the session.

As of posting, it is still unclear whether the chamber would act on Trillanes' motion seeking a Senate inquiry into Duterte's role in the DDS. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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