Cayetano: LP wants to ‘reclaim’ Palace through ‘Davao Death Squad’ witness

Camille Elemia

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Cayetano: LP wants to ‘reclaim’ Palace through ‘Davao Death Squad’ witness
Senator Leila De Lima denies it, saying she kept the witness a secret from her allies in the Liberal Party

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday, September 15, accused the Liberal Party (LP) of being behind witness Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman of the supposed “Davao Death Squad.”

Cayetano, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest allies, grilled Matobato and “tested” his alleged connections with the former ruling party.

In his line of questioning during the 3rd Senate hearing into the spate of extrajudicial killings under the administration, Cayetano slammed the LP anew for allegedly planning to oust Duterte from office to “reclaim” Malacañang.

“Sino’ng vice president? (Who’s the vice president?) Cayetano asked Matobato, who answered Leni Robredo.

“So who would become president if Duterte is ousted?” the senator said in Filipino.

Cayetano then pointed out that Senator Leila De Lima, the chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights initiating the probe, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, are Robredo’s partymates.

“Gusto ko ipakita na may posibleng motibo sa paninira sa ating pangulo rito (I want to show the possible motives for attacking the President here),” he said.

Talking to De Lima, Cayetano said: “I’m testing his (Matobato’s) credibility. I’m asking about you, your motive, and the motive of your party in this hearing. And that is my right because I am testing if he is a credible witness or this is part of the plan B of the Liberal Party na makuha ang Malacañang at manira lang (to reclaim Malacañang and ruin Duterte’s reputation).”

Matobato, for his part, denied any political connections.

“Wala pong nagsasabi sa akin (No one coached me),” the witness told Cayetano.

Matobato accused Duterte of ordering killings in Davao City, claiming that he targeted perceived enemies and critics.


During the course of his questioning, Cayetano repeatedly insinuated that the LP is behind all the attacks against the President.

At one point, he said it was the responsibility of the chairperson to vet the credibility of the witness and that De Lima had already judged the Duterte administration “guilty” even before the hearings began. (READ: Senators face off at probe into killings: ‘Trash talk, out of order’)

This triggered De Lima to reprimand Cayetano, calling his acts “unparliamentary.”

“It is unparliamentary to be imputing motives on the part of the standing committee, including the chair. You have been doing that, insinuating that, indicating bad faith on the part of the standing committee. I’m not going to allow it,” De Lima said.

Cayetano objected some more, prompting De Lima to declare him “out of order.”

But Cayetano continued to talk, prompting De Lima to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to restrain Cayetano. At this point, he eventually stopped.

No politics

De Lima maintained the LP has no hand in the surfacing of Matobato as key witness. In fact, she said, she kept it a secret from her allies.

“Ito pong masasabi ko, at this point, is hindi po ito LP. Wala pong kinalaman ang LP. Precisely, I was conscious and careful enough, na kung sana noong nilapitan ako, sana chinismis ko na sana ‘yan sa mga kasamahan ko na, ‘Uy meron na, lumabas na uli ‘yung dating self-confessed hitman at magte-testify,'” she said after the hearing.

(I can say, at this point, that the LP is not behind this. The LP is not involved. Precisely, I was conscious and careful enough not to approach them when the emissary approached me. I could have spilled it to my allies and said, “Hey, the self-confessed former hitman is about to testify.”)

De Lima said she only recently told Senator Antonio Trillanes IV about it, as she sought his help to secure the witness.

Trillanes, another Duterte critic since the 2016 campaign, downplayed Cayetano’s accusations against the LP.

It was Trillanes who earlier exposed the alleged secret bank accounts of Duterte and his family containing millions of pesos.

“It’s very convenient to call everything as ‘politically motivated.’ Alam mo, ‘yan ‘yung refuge of the guilty sometimes eh. I’m not saying all the time but wala namang election ngayon eh. It cannot be a possible motivation,” he said.

(It’s very convenient to call everything “politically motivated.” You know, that’s sometimes the refuge of the guilty. I’m not saying all the time but there’s no election now. It cannot be a possible motivation.)

Duterte himself earlier accused “yellow” forces of plotting his ouster – something that LP lawmakers vehemently denied. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.