I had been expecting something like this ever since Senator Leila de Lima started her justice committee hearings investigating allegations of this administration’s extrajudicial killings in its war versus illegal-drugs: The sensational testimony of a “whistleblower.” Of course, it’s been an old script, so overused it has become sickening, I think.
After the public ignored most of the testimonies of heavily-masked accusers in the past weeks, one Edgar Matobato, an admitted killer, testified in De Lima’s hearing yesterday accusing President Duterte of undertaking summary killings of suspected criminals in Davao – through what has been called his “Davao Death Squad” – in the years he was mayor there.
But we’ve have heard those accusations since the start of the election campaign last year. So Matobato had to say something new, or say something that would put his accusations in the headlines. He then accused Duterte of more horrible things like ordering the bombing of Muslim mosques to retaliate against the bombing in 1993 of the Davao Cathedral and directing the police to arrest Muslim suspects and kill them.
Matobato also claimed Duterte even practiced his driving skills by swinging his golf club against suspected international terrorist’s mouth that knocked off all the poor man’s teeth. (Senator Panfilo Lacson, though, pointed out that that there was no report of such a terrorist Matobato identified as “Salim Makdum” ever existing, much less arrested and killed.) Matobato even threw in a stock plot for murder movies, a love triangle. He claimed Duterte’s son Paolo ordered the killing of hotelier Richard King in 2014 because of rivalry over a woman.
Matobato’s testimony was designed to shock. He said he himself had killed 50 suspected criminals as ordered by Duterte’s death squad. Upon questioning by Senator Angara, however, he claimed there were always others who did the killing with him, as in six people pulling the rope that strangled the victim. (That could be a record of sorts, six people strangling a single man.)
Of course, nobody in his right mind thinks that Matobato’s allegations will result in charges against Duterte and son. Duterte especially is immune from suits while he is President. Matobato also admitted he never heard of Duterte himself ordering the killings, and had not spoken to him ever. He heard all about these from the mayor’s underlings. He got orders from the mayor’s underlings, most of whom, he volunteered the information, had retired from service.
All in the 1990s
Of course, these killings were all, except one, committed in the 1990s, which in our criminal investigation capabilities, might as well have been during our Spanish colonization. “Cold case” investigations, or solving decades-old crimes is just seen on TV and in movies, folks.
Why and when did he decide to be a whistleblower? This is where the King killing plays a role. Matobato said after that killing in June 2014, for some reason he didn’t disclose, the police killers wanted him to be the fall guy for it, and even tortured him for a week to admit to it. So he fled, although he didn’t say how. In August 2014, he claimed, he went to the Commission on Human Rights, which accepted his testimony.
I find it amazing that the testimony given to the CHR wasn’t used by the Liberal Party against Duterte in the elections, which would have been very damaging, especially for the elite since Duterte was accused of killing a rich hotelier.
Matobato claimed he went to the CHR, as his “conscience was bugging him,” the usual explanation by past Pinoy whistleblowers for their miraculous change of heart.
This is all obviously rubbish. He went to the CHR, rather than to President Aquino and his presidential candidate Mar Roxas, who would have lavished him with a lot of money for his accusations that would have been damaging to Duterte’s bid for the presidency?
I think De Lima is taking us for fools. This Matobato “bombshell” is her project, and she has concealed it as a testimony given to the CHR, which just happened to be disclosed at this time. The Senate should call Etta Rosales, who headed the CHR until May 2015, to determine if, indeed, this Matobato went to the CHR in 2014 to spill the beans on Duterte and his son.
The use of “whistleblowers” has been a sickening old trick in Philippine political warfare, possible because of the unscrupulousness of our legislators, the tremendous public forum the Senate provides (especially with live TV coverage) and Filipinos’ gullibility and penchant for melodrama.
In 1968, the Liberal Party had one Jibin Arula as a sole witness claiming the Army Special Forces massacred young Muslims who were being trained to infiltrate Malaysian-held Sabah, when they learned of their mission. It turned out to be the Liberal Party’s unforgivable treasonous act.
There was no massacre, and the Liberals merely wanted an issue to pin down former strongman Marcos as he was planning a reelection in 1969 — even if it meant exposing his plans to the Malaysians. Even his fellow Muslims shunned Arula, and he died in Cavite several years ago after being given menial work by the son of his handler, the anti-Marcos governor Delfin Montano (See my three part-series starting with “Jabidah was a big hoax,” March 22, 2015.)
And then there was Ador Mawanay, who fooled President Arroyo’s intelligence services and Liberal Party allies, that he had hacked Senator Panfilo Lacson’s huge dollar accounts abroad, which contained hundreds of millions of dollars. Mawanay proved to be a complete conman.
More recently, there was Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, the Liberal Party’s star witness, who claimed that the ZTE broadband deal involved huge money for Arroyo and his officials. The cases brought in court involving ZTE have all been dropped. Justice or karma had caught up with Lozada, with his conviction by the Sandiganbayan for corruption in an office he headed. The truth is that Lozada became the Liberal Party’s “star witness” in his hope that he could strike a deal for the charges to be dropped. It couldn’t, and he now faces spending years in prison.
Under President Aquino, the star whistleblower was Ben-hur Luy, the factotum of Janet Napoles, who purportedly ran the pork-barrel scam for years. Luy was the administration’s and Justice Secretary de Lima’s star witness, who steered the investigation of the pork-barrel scam (in which even administration officials and legislators were involved) into what would lead three of the most popular opposition senators in the country to jail. No administration Senator, of course, has been charged.
Luy, of course, has been the smartest “whistleblower.” Senator Jinggoy Estrada had produced bank documents showing that he had P150 million in his bank accounts, which his reported income (and his occupation) could not have generated. But for some reason the Sandiganbayan had refused Estrada’s pleas for the court to officially disclose his accounts, and investigate their source.
It seems another only-in-the-Philippines phenomenon: this Pinoy “whistleblower” as a political weapon. In this recent case, it is obviously Senator de Lima’s move to check Duterte’s campaign against her, which includes removing her from the Senate.
Matobato may be telling the truth. But it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. After a few weeks, we will all forget about this admitted killer Matobato. There certainly won’t be some new legislation inspired by de Lima’s hearings.
Enough already of these ‘whistleblowers’ hogging the headlines and the Senate’s and our time. Just file cases in courts if you have real whistleblowers.