MANILA – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday saw inconsistencies in the testimony of a man claiming to be a hitman of long-time Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte.
Lacson pointed out what he believes were holes in the testimony of Edgar Matobato, who claimed in a Senate hearing that he worked for Duterte for over two decades and was among the founding members of the infamous "Davao Death Squad."
Matobato claimed that he was part of the group who planned the killing of billionaire hotelier Richard King on orders of Duterte’s son, Paolo.
Lacson said there were inconsistencies in the details given by Matobato, such as the place where King was killed.
Matobato said King was killed at a branch of fastfood chain McDonald's, but Lacson said the hotelier was killed inside his own office.
“Magte-testify kayo under oath, dapat totoo lahat ng sinasabi niyo, dahil alam niyo hindi ito biru-biro. Ang ginagawa niyo kasi pwede kayong makulong,” Lacson told Matobato.
(If you are going to testify under oath, make sure you are telling the truth. This is no joke. You could go to jail.)
“Kailangan maingat kayo sa pagsalaysay, tulad niyan mali ang circumstance sa pagpatay kay Richard King… Paano ako maniniwala sa inyong tinestify? Kasi may kasabihan sa batas na kapag kayo pumalpak sa isa, pwede kayong mapaghinalaan na kayo ay palpak na sa lahat.”
(You have to be careful with your testimony. See, you are wrong on stating the circumstances surrounding Richard King’s killing. How will I now believe in your entire testimony? There is a saying that “false in one, false in everything.)
Senator Leila de Lima, however, later told the Senate hearing that she was informed that there is a McDonald’s branch near King's office where he was killed.
Lacson also pointed out supposed inconsistencies in Matobato's claim that the DDS brought an alleged international terrorist named Sali Makdum to an office of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) in 2002.
In his testimony, Matobato said Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa was the head of the PAOCTF at the time of Makdum’s killing.
He said the group abducted Makdum and brought him to the PAOCTF office before being killed and buried in a quarry. He said they brought Makdum to the PAOCTF office because their leader Arthur Lascanas, was close to dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa denied knowing either Matobato or Lascanas, saying he was surprised by the latter’s testimony.
“Wala akong tao sa PAOCTF na Arthur Lascanas, at never ko iyan ginamit sa operations.Wala kaming target na Sali Makdum so how can the PAOCTF be dragged into this?”
(I have no personnel in PAOCTF named Arthur Lascanas. We also had no target named Sali Makdum, so how can we be dragged into this?)
“Iyung sinasabi niya na dinala niya sa office, hindi ko alam kung nandoon sila sa office. Basta wala akong personal knowledge na may dala dala silang tao in the name of Sali Makdum.”
(I have no personal knowledge about his claim that they brought Sali Makdum to my office.)
Dela Rosa then challenged Matobato to stand firm in his claim that they had met in the past.
“This is the first time I see this person. I heard his name, narinig ko sa Davao, tirador daw (I’ve heard about him in Davao. He was allegedly a hitman),” Dela Rosa said.
Pressed to answer when and where he had met Dela Rosa, Matobato said, “hindi ko lang matandaan yung taon. Sila ni Arthur Lascanas, Colonel Tony Rivera, siya ang mga tao niya noon.”
(I don’t remember when we met. Arthur Lascanas, Colonel Rony Rivera, they were his men.)
“Palagi ako roon sa opisina pero di kami lumalapit sa kanya,” he added.
(I was always in his office but I was not approaching him.)
To this, Lacson said: “Bakit naiiba na ang statement mo noong kinonfront ka ni General dela Rosa? Iyan ang sinasabi kong kredibilidad ng isang testigo.”
(Why did you suddenly change your testimony when you were confronted by General dela Rosa? That’s what I meant by the credibility of a witness.)
Lacson said the PAOCTF was already abolished in the year Makdum was supposedly killed, but de Lima later pointed out that PAOCTF's operations did not cease to exist beyond 2001.
"Even after the exit of Senator Lacson, the information I got was that PAOCTF existed and its office was in Malacanang and we can actually verify whether there were operations or arrest in 2002 or 2003," she said.
Makdum's identity also baffled Lacson, who said he had a hard time searching the supposed terrorist's name on the internet.