DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 October) – The Senate Committee hearing on extrajudicial killings ended its 11 hour and 20 minute session Monday with heated exchanges among senators, a walkout, calls to terminate the probe and finally at 10:52 p.m., a ruling by Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to suspend the hearings “until further notice.”
The hearing started at 9:32 a.m. and ended at 10:52 p.m., with a two-hour break from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Gordon’s committee, as well as the Dangerous Drugs and Public Order committee chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson were supposed to continue hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Gordon eyeing the termination by Wednesday.
Tuesday’s hearing was supposed to have the Commission on Human Rights and its witnesses.
“A vital piece of information should have been revealed here,” Gordon said as he described as “an almost fatal oversight” Senator Leila de Lima’s claim that she must have “overlooked” the fact that Edgar Matobato was charged by the National Bureau of Investigation with kidnapping for ransom in connection with the abduction of Sali Makdum supposedly in 2002.
Gordon also got irked upon learning that Matobato, the self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) who alleged on September 15 and 22 that former Davao City Mayor, now President Rodrigo Duterte founded the DDS and ordered the killing of criminals between 1988 and 2013, had left the building.
Matobato was supposed to have stayed in a holding room until the Committee asks him to come to the hearing venue to confront and be confronted by the policemn who were summoned by the Senate when Matobato implicated them in the DDS killings.
A fuming Lacson said: “we were taken for a ride by Mr. Matobato. We’re no smarter than a first grader.” Matobato, who claimed to have killed at least 50 persons, had earlier said he only finished Grade 1.
“That’s an unfair conclusion,” De Lima replied.
Matobato accused several policemen of abducting and killing several persons allegedly on orders of Duterte, among them Sali Makdum, reportedly a terrorist who was abducted in Samal and brought to the Laud Quarry in Ma-a, Davao City where Makdum’s throat was supposedly slit and his body chopped to pieces, according to his September 15 testimony. In his September 22 testimony, Matobato said they strangled Makdum.
National Bureau of Investiagation (NBI) chief Dante Gierran said Matobato, along with three others, was charged with kidnapping for ransom for the abduction of Makdum in November 2000.
Makdum’s body was never found.
Duterte was not mayor in 2000. He was Congressman representing the city’s first district from 1998 to 2001, after completing three terms as mayor from 1988 to 1998. The mayor in 2000 was Benjamin de Guzman.
Gordon noted that Matobato repeatedly said Makdum was killed in 2002 and that Senator de Lima “never mentioned “ the kidnapping case against Matobato.
De Lima explained she was not sure if Matobato mentioned it during his testimony but based on her notes, a kidnapping case was, indeed, filed against him by Makdum’s live-in partner.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, who was out of the session hall while Gordon, de Lima and Lacson were venting their ire, returned to say it was not Matobato’s decision to leave the Senate building but his, having taken protective custody over Matobato. He said he heeded the advise of his security for Matobato not to travel at night.
Gordon said Trillanes should have informed the Committee.
Trillanes tried to ease the tension on the floor by reading a portion of the transcript on September 15 where Matobato said a kidnapping case was filed against him in connection with the abduction of Makdum. He said de Lima deserved an apology.
De Lima butted in to demand an apology but Gordon declined, insisting that de Lima should not have concealed that material fact.”
Lacson said if de Lima had manifested about the kidnapping case there would have been no need to summon the policemen but de Lima countered the hearing is not just about the Makdum case.
Gordon said Matobato “implicated people who, per NBI investigation, are not even part” of the kidnapping.
“Let me just say, as pointed by Senators Lacson and Sotto, we went on a very wild goose chase. We would not have called all these people,” he said, referring to the policemen Matobato implicated.
“I feel very betrayed,” Gordon added.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said the international press had put on their front pages that the Philippine President is a mass murderer who fed his enemy to the crocodiles.
He challenged the foreign media to now put on their front pages that they were taken for a ride.
De Lima cautioned her colleagues against hasty conclusions. “The inquiry is not done yet. We are still establishing the facts and there is a conclusion already that Mr. Matobato has been lying all along.”
“Matoabato has testified on a lot of things which are factual, consistent with fact.
Kung meron mang sinsabing umiba, kaya tinatanong, i-thresh out” (If there are differences, that’s why we ask, to thresh out).
Lacson said it was de Lima and Trillanes who had earlier made their conclusions.
“Since no apology is forthcoming, I am walking out. Clearly there was no concealment on my part. It was disclosed by the witness so what is there to conceal?”
De Lima said, as she walked out of the hall at 10:18 p.m.
The hearing resumed two minutes later with Pacquiao moving to “terminate this committee meeting. This is useless.”
Cayetano said he is “sad that we are ending this way,” congratulated Gordon “for ferreting out the truth” and seconded the motion of Pacquiao.
Gordon said the Committee has “no other agenda here but the truth. But the truth suffers in the testimony of a very wishy-washy witness.”
“The nation is hanging by tenterhooks. These are serious allegations made by the witness,” he said, adding, “criminal rin pala nagte-tesify.”
“To walk out on a Committee is cowardice,” Gordon said.
He acknowledged the motions for hearing but “my own personal opinion, we will not stop.”
He said the Committee will listen to the Commission on Human Rights after the committee members shall have decided on a caucus.
He said he was going to suspend the hearing Tuesday to give way to a caucus.
Trillanes took the rostrum again to manifest that based on the transcript of Matobato’s testimony on September 22, when Cayetano was interrogating Matobato on the Makdum case, Matobato again brought up the kidnapping case filed against him.
“That’s why I keep referring to the transcript,” Trillanes said.
But Gordon repeatedly said there was material concealment on the part of De Lima.
He said he would “suspend with apologies to all the policemen here.”
“We will suspend to assess and where do we want to go,” Gordon added.
“This meeting is suspended until further notice,” Gordon said as he banged the gavel at 10:52 p.m. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)