Matobato to continue testimony this week

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The 57-year-old witness is expected to continue testifying on Thursday against Duterte and his family as well as some of his close aides before the Senate committee on justice.

Matobato will continue to spill the beans on Duterte even after Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III denied an urgent request to have him placed under the protective custody of the chamber.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who was among those who brought Matobato to the inquiry last week, said “good Samaritans” were protecting the witness after being disallowed from staying in Senate premises.

“He’s determined to continue his testimony. He has nowhere to go and he feels this is the only way he can get make up for all the things he’d done in the past,” Trillanes told dzBB.

Trillanes said he found Matobato’s testimony credible even as he asked critics and his colleagues who continue to question the witness’ credibility to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Critics said Matobato is part of political efforts to discredit and oust President Duterte from office.

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Malacañang, on the other hand, kept mum on the allegations.

“There are many speculations that this group is behind that. Maybe the media can tell us what evidence will prove that this group is responsible for the confusion in our country today. You tell us who,” presidential communications chief Martin Andanar said.

“We don’t have information on who is really behind all of these things. These are all speculations,” he added.

Days before Matobato showed up in the Senate hearing about the spate of drug-related killings in the country, Duterte claimed that “yellows” were out to discredit him so he would be ousted from office. He said the tirades against his anti-drug war were part of the effort to impeach him.

Liberal Party (LP) members have denied plotting the ouster of Duterte, admitting that an impeachment would not succeed because it does not have popular support.

Despite the denial, Duterte’s ally Sen. Alan Cayetano believes that Matobato’s surfacing is part of an attempt to remove Duterte from office and install Vice President Leni Robredo, an LP member, to power. Robredo has denied Cayetano’s allegations, calling them “unfair.”

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Duterte, who would usually react immediately to issues either through media interviews or speeches, has not responded to Matobato’s claims.

Andanar could not say if the President’s silence is part of a new communication strategy.

“We can’t say whether the mood of the President is to talk or not to talk to the media,” Andanar said.

“But as far as the Presidential Communications Office is concerned, we just streamline the communication process so that the media won’t be confused and so that we can distinguish between what is official Palace line and what is the official line of every Cabinet portfolio,” he added.

Among the explosive allegations of Matobato – who claimed to be a former member of the Davao death squad (DDS) – are that Duterte ordered the killing of Jun Pala, a radio broadcaster and critic of the then mayor in 2003, and the bombing of a mosque and killing of Muslims suspected in the 1993 Davao Cathedral blast.

He also alleged Duterte had four bodyguards of his rival, then Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles, kidnapped and killed. The witness also claimed that former DDS men told him that Duterte’s son Paolo ordered the killing of billionaire Richard King in 2014 due to rivalry over a woman.

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‘Guilty?’

Trillanes said he found Duterte’s silence on Matobato’s allegations as suspicious as he was known to respond strongly to criticisms.

“These are serious and direction accusations that await explanations,” he said.

Trillanes said Pimentel’s decision to deny Matobato custody will be challenged in this afternoon’s plenary session and might be put to a vote.

Committee chair Sen. Leila de Lima earlier said the panel could take protective custody of Matobato if Pimentel does not want him.

Pimentel maintained Matobato has no relevance at all in the inquiry, which is supposed to investigate drug-related extrajudicial killings from May 10 to July 12 this year.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which is the secondary committee in the inquiry, suggested the hearings be suspended first until issues are resolved. – Alexis Romero, Delon Porcalla, Perseus Echeminada

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