The Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings (EJK) has reached a point of no return. After Thursday’s gruesome details of a hitman’s testimony, the probe must go on to examine his credibility. After all, the man he describes as the central figure who gave the kill orders to the so-called Davao Death Squad happens to be the city’s mayor then and now the incumbent President of the Republic.
The testimony yesterday of the self-confessed member of the infamous Davao Death Squad (DDS), Edgar Matobato, who testified to having personally participated in the killings and mutilation of scores of murdered victims, left everyone who was witnessing the hearing at the Senate or watching it on TV gasping and horrified.
While the initial Senate inquiry was called to investigate the killings of drug suspects in President Duterte’s war on drugs, Matobato’s testimony shifted public attention dramatically from the drug war to the alleged summary killings that took place in Davao City from 1988 to 2013.
Matobato’s narration of events was gripping, detailed, specific, lethal, and finally, horrifying. He enumerated many incidents of murder. He named names. He spelled our how killings were decided and carried out. He did not hesitate to name President Duterte and his son Paolo, along with numerous police officers and other Davao officials as complicit in the Davao killings.
The reactions from other senators attending the hearing and the denials from the Duterte camp were immediate and vehement.
Senator Panfilo Lacson raised the issue of credibility of the witness, highlighting the inconsistencies in his statements regarding details and his personal knowledge of the people he implicated in his testimony.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a staunch Duterte supporter, said Matobato’s testimony was “100 percent lies,” meant to support the Liberal Party’s plot to impeach President Duterte.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd also called Matobato a liar and Senator de Lima, who heads the Senate committee hearing the case on extrajudicial killings, “desperate” to divert public attention away from allegations of her links to the illegal drug trade.
Cayetano even clashed with his colleagues as he grilled the “surprise witness.” His bid to downplay the testimony of Matobato led him to a verbal tussle with Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes 4th during Thursday’s hearing.
How we handle this issue will be a test of our maturity as a nation, and the strength of our constitutional system.
The world will be watching us.
Members of the administration party and coalition are expected to rally behind the President in a knee-jerk effort to save his government, in which they belong.
In the final analysis, however, this may become an issue of national integrity, morality and survival.
Even politicians will come to realize the meaning of their oaths of office, and their responsibility to country and posterity.