By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Still doubting the credibility of the self-confessed assassin who divulged killing thousands on order of President Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Panfilo Lacson rejected the claim that the Senate hearing on extra-judicial killings was part of the Liberal Party (LP) plan to reclaim Malacanang.
Duterte’s predecessor, Simeon Benigno Aquino, belongs to LP, then the dominant party in the previous administration.
“I won’t buy that,” said Lacson in an interview over radio DZMM. He was reffering to the assertion of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that the Senate justice committee hearings on extra-judicial killings is part of LP’s Plan B in case their presidential candidate did not win the May elections.”
“With all due respect to APC (Alan Peter Cayetano), it would appear that his projection was so far. I don’t see any basis,” said Lacson.
While he is not close to Vice-president Leni Robredo, Lacson said he does not see her as one character who will go through it just to sit in Malacanang.
Denying the accusations by witness Edgar Matobato against Duterte, Cayetano questioned the real motive of the justice committee chaired by Sen. Leila De Lima in producing Matobato.
Matobato, 57, of Tamayong, Calinan, Davao City, told the Senate panel that he worked as a hitman, being one of the seven original members of the Davao Death Squad, initially named “Lambada Boys” for Duterte for 25 years. He said their job was to execute suspected criminals and people who are personal enemies of Duterte and his family.
According to Matobato, he was taken in by Duterte from the CAFGU, then under Scout Ranger, when he became mayor in 1988. He said Duterte got him from the battalion due to his good performance.
He was then brought to Davao City where Duterte established the “Lambada boys” or his liquidation squad. He said their job was to kill criminals like drug pushers, rapists, snatchers. “We are killing these people. Everyday, we killed people,” said Matobato who claimed they only execute their targets after getting the order from Duterte whose codename then was “Charlie Mike.”
In 1993, he said their number increased and that was the time Duterte established DDS with new members who were rebel returnees and policemen. He said the first mission of the DDS, a vigilante group, was the massacre of Muslims following the 1993 bombing of the Davao City Cathedral. He also enumerated the other killings which were allegedly ordered by Duterte and his son, Vice-mayor Paolo Duterte, who he also accused as involved in illegal drugs and smuggling.
Cayetano noted Matobato was just being used by LP to damage the reputation of the President, destroy and remove him from power, and install their own president.
He also quizzed the Justice Committee’s intention for presenting a witness with no proper corroboration. He strongly expressed doubt over the accusations made by Matobato.
But Lacson insisted that for him, Cayetano’s allegations seemed to be out of bounds for lack of a better description.
“His speculation was out of bounds that should not have been said in that kind of hearing. Just the same, I will respect his opinion. APC might have information that I do not know. I’ll just leave it at that,” said Lacson.
He considered Matobato as “Strike 2” when he gave inconsistent statements on two occasions. The first involving the Presidential Anti Crime Task Force (PACTF) office and the second one, the place another victim was allegedly shot dead.
“He said they brought the victim to the PACTF office sometime in 2002 but the said office was already disbanded in 2001,” he said.
He also noted that hotelier Edward King was shot inside his office at Vita C and not at MacDonalds, according to Matobato.
However, De Lima argued that the inconsistencies in Matobato’s testimony also proved he was not a coached witness and his testimony was not rehearsed. If he was rehearsed, he would give a perfect testimony.
She considered as “minor defails” the lapses committed by Matobato in his testimony. She insisted that Matobato was a credible witness and said his failure to recall specific details did not automatically mean he was lying.
Conceding that dates are “vital” in any testimony, De Lima said there are people who are not good in remembering such details.
“Sometimes you have to understand that there are people who are not good in remembering dates, that’s why I also kept on reminding him that if he’s not sure he could say, “This is how I remember it.” But it does not mean that his story on what happened, on the killings, is not true. Because you know, his story is also detailed. My feeling is that there are still some incidents he has not narrated yet,” explained De Lima.