Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 February 2017


Consider, Reader. Edgar Matobato, a confessed killer and member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS)—Gen. Bato dela Rosa himself admitted that he knew of him as a “matador” (killer)—showed proof of his connection with the Davao City mayor (including being an employee of City Hall), and narrated with total credibility (at least to me), the deeds he perpetrated, as well as his relationship with Rodrigo Duterte. Where he stumbled, and was pounced on by some senators, was on the names of agencies and tapes.

Then there’s SPO3 (now SPO4) Arturo Lascañas, who Matobato identified as his boss in the DDS. Lascañas denied Matobato’s claims last October, but has now retracted his former testimony and now admits his role in the DDS and that of his boss, Rodrigo Duterte. I do not know why he changed his testimony. But what I do know—and Reader will agree—is that he has everything to lose and nothing to gain by that change.

The Matobato and Lascañas testimonies are consistent with one another. What is more, they cite not only the participation of the mayor of Davao but also that the DDS has been in fact a police operation. And the number of people killed by the DDS has been recorded at 1,424 from 1998 to 2015 by Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal. Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights have also taken cognizance of the situation.

The curious thing about this, after all, is that Mr. Duterte was mayor of Davao through all this time, and he could not catch the culprits—not even one.

This does not match his reputation as a crime-fighter—unless, of course, he does not consider extrajudicial killings a crime.

And another curious thing: Most of our senators, such as Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, and the Department of Justice, pooh-poohed the Matobato testimony then. And now, even when the Lascañas testimony supports it, there seems to be a reluctance to reopen the hearings.

But then, one does not take Rodrigo Duterte lightly, considering both his reputation and the fact that he has a six-year term as Philippine president, with all the enormous power that comes with it.

Except Leila de Lima. It is not that she does not take the power lightly. What she did not realize is the extent to which that power would be used for personal interests, which we all know should never be done.

I brought up the two cases against President Duterte, which have so far gotten short shrift from this administration, so I could contrast them with the way the same administration has treated testimonies of drug convicts, and alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, all against Senator De Lima. These testimonies against Senator De Lima have been embraced by the DOJ and used as the basis for the charges against her, and her arrest.

Face it, Reader, the witnesses in Senator De Lima’s case have everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by testifying according to the wishes of the DOJ.

And apparently, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has indeed rewarded them handsomely. A Dec. 9, 2016, confidential memo of Alvin Herrera Lim, chief of the Bureau of Corrections’ Legal Office, to BuCor Director General Benjamin de los Santos makes this very clear: “When pressed for comment (on the military’s confidential investigation results stating that high-profile inmates continued to ‘enjoy lavish lifestyles including use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air-conditioning units, internet, cellular phones’—SCM), elements of both PNP and BuCor invoked that they are just following the express instruction of the Hon. Vitaliano N. Aguirre II to allow the entry of the above-enumerated gadgets in return for the testimony they gave during the congressional inquiry on the proliferation of drugs inside New Bilibid Prison.” (Emphasis mine. I assume the memo is authentic.)

That’s our Philippine National Police and BuCor speaking privately about Justice Secretary Aguirre. Is this justice? For shame.

Let’s all stand behind Leila de Lima, Readers. Her exemplary public career, the fact that she doesn’t even own her own home, belie the charges hurled against her.

Stop the bullying. Stop the persecution. Stop the impunity.