Not a word from Duterte on Matobato’s allegations
President Rodrigo Duterte has ignored allegations by a confessed hit man that he ordered the killing of some 1,000 suspected criminals and opponents while he was still mayor of Davao City, while his senior aides have dismissed them.
As of Friday, Mr. Duterte had not said a word about the accusations hurled at him by Edgar Matobato in a Senate testimony on Thursday.
Mr. Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said he saw no reason for the President to respond to statements of a “perjured witness.”
Panelo said Mr. Duterte had not responded to Matobato’s allegations because “the lies are so obvious.”
“You know, when you watch proceedings that are obviously worthless, you would no longer comment. The people watching will reach a conclusion that this witness is a perjured witness so there is no reason to make a comment,” Panelo told reporters.
He added that he himself was talking about the issue because reporters sought his views on the matter.
Lawyers know when to ignore things that have no value, he said.
Asked if he had advised the President not to respond to the allegations, he said: “You know, you don’t even have to advise this President. He’s such a smart, intelligent thinking lawyer President. That’s not necessary.”
Malacañang said an official statement on Matobato’s allegations would come from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Aguirre, in a statement issued yesterday, belittled Matobato’s testimony, describing it as “rich in falsity and fabrication.”
The Senate wasted valuable resources by listening to Matobato, Aguirre said.
“It was not a hearing on extrajudicial killing, it was a case of extrajudicial lying,” he said.
Matobato’s testimony was not at all worrying, Panelo said.
“How can you be threatened by lies?” he asked.
According to Panelo, the people behind Matobato intend to ruin Mr. Duterte’s reputation and that of his family. But he said this would not stop the President from pursuing his campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism.
“No amount of black propaganda, no amount of sinister ploy or plan will stop the President from his relentless campaign against the drug menace and terrorism,” he said.
Criticizing Matobato’s testimony, he noted that the witness did not raise the allegations when he was under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) for some two to three years.
Panelo said he wondered why Matobato came forward with the accusations against Mr. Duterte only now.
“There is no sane reason why you did not say all these when President Duterte was still mayor. You had no reason not to disclose these. You were under the Witness Protection Program, you were protected,” he said.
He also noted that Sen. Leila de Lima, who was justice secretary when Matobato was under protection, is the witness’ handler.
De Lima chairs the Senate committee on justice and human rights that is investigating alleged extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
Matobato’s facts are also jumbled, Panelo said.
He said the witness referred to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force at a time when this was supposedly no longer in existence.
Panelo said this was the first time he had seen a witness admitting to killings but saying he did not know the identities of those he had killed.
“So you cannot even sue him because there is no victim,” he said.
Mr. Duterte’s right-hand man in the House of Representatives, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, described Matobato as a “recycled witness,” noting that De Lima presented him as a witness when she headed the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice.
“If indeed there was a crime committed based on their investigation, she should have filed a case even then,” Alvarez said.
Matobato, appearing at a Senate probe on extrajudicial killings, said he was responsible for about 50 of some 1,000 killings ordered by Mr. Duterte between 1988 and 2013.
He said the Davao Death Squad killed criminal suspects and opponents of Mr. Duterte and his family, with Mr. Duterte himself shooting dead one of the victims, a National Bureau of Investigation agent whose vehicle impeded a death squad mission in 2007.
Matobato also said it was Mr. Duterte who ordered the killing of broadcast journalist Juan “Jun” Pala, who regularly criticized him on his radio program, in 2007.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV sought Senate protection for Matobato on Thursday, but Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of Mr. Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban, rejected the request, saying there was “no [sign] that his life or safety is threatened.”
Several senators yesterday expressed disappointment with Pimentel’s decision, with Trillanes saying it appeared to have been influenced by politics and an intent to shield the President.
Trillanes described Pimentel’s decision as “heartless.”
“Fortunately, there were good Samaritans in our midst who were willing to provide temporary sanctuary for Mr. Matobato,” he said.
De Lima said she was “perplexed, disturbed and extremely disappointed” with Pimentel’s decision.
She said she withdrew her request of protection for Matobato allow her committee to assert its power to decide the matter on its own. With reports from Tarra Quismundo and Gil Cabacungan; Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas/TVJ
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