“HEARSAY,” to cite the Oxford English Dictionary, is “that which one hears or has heard someone say; information received by word of mouth, usually with implication that it is not trustworthy.” As a general principle, Philippine law excludes hearsay evidence. According to the Rules of Court, Section 36, Rule 130, a witness can only “testify to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge, that is, which are derived from his own perception.”
But there are several caveats. One of them is that fact-finding bodies other than the courts can make their own rules of procedure and are not necessarily bound to the rules of evidence as set down by the Supreme Court. The Senate blue ribbon committee is one such fact-finding body. So why did Sen. Richard Gordon, who chaired the blue ribbon committee’s hearings on the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling case, choose to apply the hearsay rule so rigidly?
Appearing before the Senate committee on September 7, the President’s son and vice mayor of Davao City, Paolo Duterte, stated: “Once and for all, I now have the time to deny any and all baseless allegations…I am very sorry but I cannot answer allegations based on hearsay.” This is his prerogative. But is he also seizing upon the hearsay rule as an excuse for silence and as a means for evading the truth?
Here’s what we know about Paolo Duterte.
First, he is accused of being a drug addict. On September 15, 2016, Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed former Davao death squad member and hit man, testifying before the Senate inquiry on extrajudicial killings, said that Paolo was a drug user, specifically of shabu, “Gumagamit talaga ng shabu.” Matobato, who claims to have worked for the Duterte family for many years, and was Paolo’s bodyguard and escort since the latter was young, said that Paolo had a tendency to make scenes, “nagwawala,” while under the influence of drugs, and that he witnessed these episodes first hand.
Second, Paolo Duterte is accused of being a smuggler. Perfecto Tagalog, a man with both an exceedingly memorable name and poor sense of timing, once called Paolo the “lord of all smugglers in Davao.” Tagalog, the head of a national consumers group, cried wolf a month before the presidential elections and so was laughed out of town.
However, before exiting, he sensibly cited a memo issued by the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, dated December 7, 2007, in which Paolo and others, including his “Muslim wife,” were named as responsible for smuggling high-end cars, rice, sugar, and used clothes, through the port of Davao. The memo described the smuggling activities of this group “rampant and bold.”
While Paolo has denied all allegations of involvement in the P6.4 billion shabu drug smuggling case in Manila that came to light earlier this year, he has been accused of closely associating with, and protecting “drug lords,” and facilitating drug smuggling in Davao. Matobato has stated that he has personally seen Paolo socializing, drinking and talking— “nag iinuman, nag uusap-usap”—with known Chinese drug lords. Sen. AntonioTrillanes has exhibited a number of photographs of Paolo with various Chinese businessmen of ill-repute. The pictures show an all-male gang who succeed in looking simultaneously thuggish, nasty and juvenile.
Testifying before the Senate committee on March 6, former Davao police officer and self-confessed hit man, Arturo Lascañas, corroborated Matobato’s claims with a revealing story of his own. He recalled how Paolo had protecteda shipment of illegal drugs from China that arrived in Davao in 2013, as well as the man responsible for the cargo, the Chinese businessman and bar owner in Davao City named Charlie Tan.
Initially instructed to arrest Tan, Lascañas was told by Paolo to expect a 40-foot container van in which Tan had hidden illegal drugs. Paolo was absolutely certain of this. Lascañas vividly recalled Paolo’s back pedaling on the order: “Arbor ko na lang. Ako na ang bahala kay Charlie,” Paolo had said, telling the policeman he would take personal charge of Tan and the shipment, and to back off from the planned bust.
Third, Paolo is accused of being a killer. Matobato recalled the times, and they were numerous, when Paolo personally ordered him to kill someone. They were ordinary, small people, Matobato remembered, killed for no reason, slaughtered like chickens. “Parang manok ang tao sa Davao City, pinapatay lang ng walang dahilan.”
For instance, Paolo was involved in a minor traffic accident with another driver. The driver of the other car got out of his car and, failing to recognize the vice mayor, assaulted Paolo by striking him in the face. Soon after the incident, the driver was murdered, stabbed to death by Matobato and his men. Another instance: someone whom Paolo suspected of using his name and imitating his voice on the telephone, ended up murdered. And so on and so forth.
Testifying before the Senate committee on September 22 2016, Matobato was repeatedly asked by Senators Trillanes, Angara, and Gordon, whether he received direct and personal orders from Paolo to kill.
The transcript of the hearing records one such exchange between Gordon and Matobato as follows:
Senator Gordon: Ikaw, narinig mo, sa harap mo, sinabi, “Hoy, Edgar, sumama ka rito, patayin natin ito.” Sinabi sa iyo iyon?
(Did you hear him say in front of you: “Hey, Edgar, come and kill.” Was that said to you?)
Matobato: Oo, sir, kami-kami sinabihan mga pulis, sir.
(Yes, sir, to us police.)
Gordon: No, no. Hindi ko tinatanggap yung kami-kami.
(No, no. I won’t accept “us”.)
Matobato: Opo, sir, opo.
Gordon: Narinig mo, tinukoy niya, “Patayin natin ito.” Ganoon ba?
(Did you hear, did he say pointedly, “Let’s kill [this person].” Was it that way?)
Matobato: Opo, sir. Opo, sir.
Now, Matobato and Lascañas are self-confessed murderers. They were paid hit-men who served powerful people. One can accept their sworn testimonies, and believe the anecdotal truths they told. Or one can denounce them as liars.
Either way, one can hardly call what they’ve revealed about the President’s son “hearsay.”