MANILA – During Thursday's Senate inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings, lawmakers again looked to punch holes in Edgar Matobato's testimony, following inconsistencies in the self-confessed hit man's testimony.
Matobato answered queries from senators, who questioned his changing statements when detailing accounts of killings where he supposedly played a hand, such as the deaths of Pakistani Sali Makdum and a certain "Amisola" who Duterte supposedly finished off, as well as information about his personal background.
The inconsistencies in Matobato's testimony were "glaring," said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, as some of his statements in Thursday's hearing contradicted what he said during his previous appearance in Senate.
Matobato also kept pointing to President Rodrigo Duterte as the source of orders allegedly given to members of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) despite getting his information from Arthur Lascanas and not directly from the former Davao City mayor, Cayetano said.
"The witness has a tendency to answer, then change his answer," Cayetano said when given a conflicting answer by Matobato.
Throughout Cayetano's interpellation, during which the senator read from a transcript of Matobato's testimony, the self-confessed hit man gave answers which differed from his previous story, such as whether it was Duterte who ordered the kills supposedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad, and what Duterte allegedly said in ordering the killings.
Senators also questioned Matobato if he had any qualms about killing Makdum, whose wife was his own wife's cousin, his status as a member of the DDS, how it came to be that Amisola had to be killed by Duterte despite being shot at by 30 hired killers, whether he had provided the National Bureau of Investigation any affidavits regarding his testimony, and if he was indeed a member of the military's CAFGU.
Matobato admitted that he changed some statements, which differed from his previous testimony.
When questioned regarding his background as an alleged member of the military's CAFGU, Matobato admitted to joining the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) in 1982, and that it was the same as CAFGU.
He had previously said he left the CAFGU to join the DDS in 1988, and the military denied having him in its records.
De Lima protested her fellow senators' approach in questioning Matobato, and appealed to colleagues to "give him some consideration" given that the Committee on Justice and Human Rights' hearing is a fact-finding inquiry.
"We have to remember that this is not a court of law. In cross-examination in court, the lawyer of a witness can always object. In Senate, the lawyer is not allowed to object, only [give] advice. The counsel will not be able to come to his rescue," De Lima said.
However, committee chair Senator Richard Gordon said that all witnesses should come to the Senate "at your own peril," as lawmakers were conducting an investigation in aid of legislation.
"All statements are subject to trial by probity. Do not come here and expect kindergarten treatment. There will always be cross examination methods," he said.
The Senate committee investigation regarding killings linked to Duterte's war on drugs resumed under new head Gordon, after De Lima was ousted by fellow lawmakers after she was accused by Duterte allies of supposedly being biased in her handling of the hearing.
In his opening statement earlier, Gordon pledged to erase doubts regarding the proceedings’ objectivity.
Earlier this week, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a resolution seeking a separate probe into the alleged existence of the Davao Death Squad.