Sen. Leila de Lima on Thursday vouched for the credibility of witness Edgar Matobato, saying his failure to recall some specific details does not mean he was lying before the Senate committees looking into the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings. Matobato, a confessed hired killer, testified before the Senate committees on justice and human rights, and public order and dangerous drugs that he murdered several individuals in Davao upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte during his stint as city mayor. “Ang talagang impression ko sa kanya, na hirap siya sa mga dates ...pero it doesn’t mean na nagsisinungaling siya,” De Lima said.
De Lima cited for instance the testimony of Matobato on the supposed ambush attempt against her during a 2009 visit to Davao. De Lima, then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, was there to verify a tip that an area was being used as a grave site of the victims of the infamous Davao Death Squad. “‘Yung pagpunta ko sa Laud, 2003 daw yun pero actually, 2009 talaga yun,” De Lima said on the incident.“Vital syempre ang date but minsan nga you have to understand that may mga tao na hindi magaling sa pagre-remmebr ng mga dates kaya I kept also on reminding him na kung hindi kayo sigurado...’pwede niyong sabihin, ang pagkakalaala ko ganyan ganyan’,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean hindi na totoo yung kwento niya dun sa nangyari o mga nangyari, dun sa mga pagpatay. Kasi alam ninyo naman, detalyado din yung mga kwento niya. ang feeling ko nga baka may ilan-ilan pang insidente na hindi pa niya nasabi,” De Lima added.
De Lima, former Justice Secretary and Commission on Human Rights chairperson, said she intends to tap a lawyer to execute a judicial affidavit for Matobato. 'Pattern' De Lima said Matobato was presented as a witness even if the Senate hearing was on the alleged drug-related killings to be able to establish a “pattern.” “Ang duda raw niya kasi ang mga nangyayari na ‘yan ay parang ganoon din daw noon, yung mga style na yan, ‘yung packing tape, sa pagdududkot parang familiar or eery familiar,” she said. She argued that killings committed by unknown perpetrators are still on the rise. During the hearing, she said 2,035 individuals have been recorded as deaths by unknown assailants.
'Not credible' But Senator Panfilo Lacson said Matabato was “not a credible witness” in his book. Lacson, during the hearing, doubted Matobato’s statement that a certain terrorist suspect “Sali Makdum” was kidnapped in 2002 and was brought to the office of thePresidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), where now police chief Director General dela Rosa was a former officer of, to be killed. Lacson, former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), pointed out that PAOCTF has been abolished in 2001. “Wala nang PAOCTF noong 2002 kasi ako’y senador na nung 2001 at nawala na yung PAOCTF,” Lacson said. De Lima, however, said she received information that the PAOCTF existed even after Lacson stepped down as police chief then Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano also doubted the motive of Matobato, insinuating that De Lima’s Liberal Party was behind him. De Lima and Vice President Leni Robredo have since denied this.