PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has branded as “all lies” allegations that he was behind vigilante killings in Davao City when he was mayor, and accused those behind the confessed hit man who made the claims in a Senate hearing last week of “subornation of perjury.”
“It’s a lie,” Duterte told reporters on Monday night when asked about the accusations hurled at him by Edgar Matobato in a Senate testimony last Thursday.
Matobato, 57, who described himself as a former militiaman and former member of the “Davao Death Squad,” was the witness presented by Sen. Leila de Lima in an inquiry on extrajudicial killings by the Senate justice and human rights committee.
He accused Duterte of ordering as many as 1,000 killings in Davao City from 1988 to 2013, targeting enemies and crime suspects.
The inquiry led to de Lima’s ouster as head of the justice committee on Monday.
Duterte warned that anyone who tells another person to lie under oath is committing a crime.
“If you know it’s a lie and you egg a person to testify, you are an active participant … that is subornation of perjury. It’s a serious crime,” he said at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City after meeting with victims of the September 2 Roxas Night Market bombing.
The President also said his son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, was angered by Matobato’s accusations.
Matobato claimed Paolo was behind the killing of Cebu businessman Richard King and four security personnel of Duterte’s one-time political rival, former Speaker Prospero Nograles.
He claimed Paolo was a drug dependent and a smuggler, allegations the younger Duterte said were made by a “madman,” and he would not dignify.
‘Not my territory’
Duterte also said he would not intervene in matters outside his territory, following de Lima’s charge that the President was behind her ouster as justice panel chief.
“I do not intervene or dwell into matters not part of my territory. I don’t care how many hearings are there … basta ako nakatutok sa aking trabaho [as long as I am focused on my job],” Duterte told reporters.
On Tuesday, Duterte told local government officials he was the favorite whipping boy of de Lima, whose ego, he said, became bloated after she was named head of the Commission on Human Rights under the Arroyo administration.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar also denied de Lima’s allegations, saying the Palace respects the independence of the Senate, part of a co-equal branch of government.
“The Palace remains independent. We don’t meddle with the affairs of the Senate,” Andanar said in a news conference on Tuesday.
The move to oust de Lima was initiated by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao following a privilege speech by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. The two are Duterte allies.
Senator Richard Gordon replaced de Lima as committee chairman, while Sen. Panfilo Lacson was named vice chairman in place of Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
Andanar said the 16 senators who voted to remove de Lima as head of the justice committee were “wise men.”
“Senator Dick Gordon is an illustrious fellow. He has been in the Senate for 12 years and he also served as mayor of Olongapo, chairman of SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority),” he added.
In a separate statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo described de Lima’s ouster as a “deserved rebuke” from her colleagues, for “abusing” her position in trying to ruin Duterte.
De Lima should have “voluntarily inhibited” from the inquiry, he said, claiming the senator had an agenda to besmirch the reputation of Duterte by “unfounded and malicious imputations using the committee as tool to achieve her end.”
De Lima, Panelo pointed out, had “positioned herself as a political adversary” of Duterte when she was head of the Commission on Human Rights.
Panelo said de Lima “ embarked on a biased and unsuccessful investigation of extrajudicial killings in Davao City, concluding that the then Davao City Mayor Duterte was behind the death squad even before she commenced her probe.”
He claimed de Lima was using Duterte as a scapegoat, noting that the senator was herself facing an investigation in the House of Representatives for her supposed role in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
For Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, de Lima’s ouster was a stern warning to senators to toe Duterte’s line.
“That was a premeditated punishment for her advocacy to stop the proliferation of a culture of violence,” the lawmaker said. “It is a blockage of the search for truth,” he said in a news conference.