Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 September 2016


Edgar Matobato: Is he a cleverly planted witness to destroy President Duterte’s reputation? Or is he for real? On the basis of what I have read and heard, these are the arguments for the two sides.

That he is a cleverly planted, exhaustively coached false witness:

Matobato refuses to say how he came to Manila and to the Senate; he refuses to say who financed his trip here. His reason for the refusal: He does not want the person or persons targeted—“mapag-initan.” (Interrogators: Senators Tito Sotto, Alan Peter Cayetano)

Furthermore, he says he joined the Witness Protection Program in 2014. De Lima was justice secretary then.  Why didn’t she bring this out against Mr. Duterte then? (Cayetano’s question)

His testimony has inconsistencies. Example: He claims he brought one of the victims, Salik Makdum, to PNP chief Bato dela Rosa’s office, together with an Arthur Lescano and others. But Dela Rosa said he never met Matobato until the hearing, although he knew of his reputation as a “tirador” (I guess that means a gun for hire).  Also, he was mistaken with regard to the year the incident occurred, because that year, there was no more PAOCTF (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force) led by Panfilo Lacson. (Interrogator: Senator Lacson)

Lacson likened Matobato to another whistle-blower, Ador Mawanay, who later recanted his testimony.

Matobato could not even identify masking tape. He pointed to a brown tape identified by Cayetano as packaging tape. (Matobato said that as far as he was concerned, all the brown tapes were masking tape.)

His testimony with regard to Mr. Duterte’s ordering four allies of then Speaker Prospero Nograles to be killed (in a particularly bestial way) was debunked by Nograles himself, who said that none of their allies were ever killed by Mr. Duterte. In spite of their bitter political rivalry, the Nograleses and the Dutertes are related by marriage.

His testimony about the abduction and killing of the dance instructor-boyfriend of Mr. Duterte’s sister Jocelyn (on orders of Mr. Duterte) was denied by Jocelyn, who said she never had a dance instructor as a boyfriend.

Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte also denied the allegations, but he also said he would not “dignify the accusations of a madman by an answer.”

That he is “for real”:

Why choose a person with very little education (Grade 1 was his highest level) to be coached and planted as a false witness? If Matobato was coached, it must have taken a very long time to do it, because of his Grade 1 status.

He was a long-time security aide of the Dutertes, and he described how he and others escorted Paolo Duterte to school and saw him grow up. No one has refuted this. This also suggests that he can be a tirador.

His testimony, precisely because it was obvious that he was not articulate (unlike Mawanay, who was so glib he was actually unbelievable), was credible. His description of how the DDS (Davao Death Squad) started had the ring of truth in it. Tripping him up on what masking tape was and when an incident took place (more than a decade ago) and confusing him with the use of English did not diminish that credibility. I particularly liked the part when Cayetano was asking him, after reading a document written in English, what he would think if the Commission on Human Rights said there was no such thing as the DDS, and he replied: I would not believe it.  Because I was part of it. Simple.

The amount of information he had, the familiarity with the Duterte family, the detail in which he described what took place (lobbing a grenade, dividing into three teams, the names of cohorts, etc.), and the horrors it evoked (cutting stomachs open and placing hollow blocks in them, chopping up bodies) have the ring of truth—or were the product of a really imaginative storyteller.

What also has the ring of truth is his conversion, as it were, and his desire to leave the group, which led to his torture, his escape, and his going under the Witness Protection Program.

In any event, the persons Matobato mentioned as having taken part in the killings can certainly be verified.  So, too, can his testimony about where he and his cohorts buried the bodies (the Ma-a quarry, the Laud quarry). Was there a dance instructor who was killed? Was he Jocelyn’s dance instructor? Was Richard King pursuing the same woman as Paolo Duterte was? Was there a man shot dead in Deca homes subdivision? Such questions can be painstakingly verified, and the question “Is he for real?” answered.

There is one problem: Who will do the investigating in Davao City? Can a team of independent investigators be formed who will not be trembling in their boots?

But there is one story that seems to be made out of whole cloth—the story that this whole situation is part of a “Plan B” of the Liberal Party, which is to impeach Mr. Duterte and put Vice President Leni Robredo in. Who said that there is a Plan B?  Cayetano, and only Cayetano. What his basis is, he did not say. Talk about imagination.

Frankly, I find it wholly laughable, because practically the whole Liberal Party, very soon after the elections, went to the Duterte side. So: 1) where will the Liberal Party, with hardly any members left, get the numbers to impeach? And more importantly, 2) VP Robredo, upright as she is, has more statesmanship than all cheap politicians put together.