Witness Edgar Matobato during the Senate probe on the alleged extrajudicial killings at the Senate in Pasay City / photo: inquirer.net

MANILA – A witness who claimed to be a member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), the alleged vigilante group behind the killings in the Philippines President’s hometown, made an explosive accusations against President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (15 September) in a senate hearing.

His testimony pictured out in dreadful detail that Mr Duterte was behind a death squad that killed more than a thousand people in Davao while he was the mayor for the past two decades.

The witness, 57-year-old Edgar Matobato, said he was hired by Mr Duterte as one of the ‘Lambado Boys’ in 1988, which eventually evolved into the famous DDS.

Mr Matobato said he was a ‘ghost employee’ at the Davao City Hall for 24 years as part of the Civil Security Unit, whose job was only to kill criminals.

In the hearing he disclosed that he and a group of policemen and former communist rebels had killed about 1,000 people over 25 years on Mr Duterte’s orders, one of them fed alive to a crocodile.

He said one of the orders was to ambush Senator Leila de Lima in 2009 when the Commission on Human Rights investigated the vigilante group in Davao City.

The Daily Inquirer reported.Mr Matobato confessed a lot of allegations of ‘killing order’ made by Mr Duterte,

“Our job was to kill criminals, rapists, pushers, and snatchers. That’s what we did. We killed people almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Many of them were garroted, burned, quartered and then buried at a quarry owned by a police officer who was a member of the death squad. Others were dumped at sea to be eaten by fish.

Senator De Lima said the bodies later dug up, several skeletons of unidentified people found at the Davao quarry.

Mrs De Lima, also a former justice secretary, said Mr Matobato was put under the witness protection program.

But Mr Matobato explained, when Mr Duterte won the presidency he had left the program and went into hiding, fearing for his life.

Asked why he left the death squad, he answered, “I am bothered by my conscience.”

Paolo Duterte, the president’s son, called the testimony a ‘mere hearsay of a madman’.

Mr Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar said he doubted that the President, a mayor at that time, could have ordered the killing of 1,000 people.

“I don’t think he’s capable of giving a directive like that. The Commission on Human Rights already investigated this a long time ago and no charges were filed,” he said.

Another spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said the allegations needed to be properly investigated.

“Whatever testimonies, statements that the chairperson (of the Senate committee) are saying, we will have to have a proper investigation regarding that.”

The Daily Inquiry also reported, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday said  Senate witness Edgar Matobato was telling ‘100 percent lies.’

He said Matobato’s testimony at the ongoing Senate investigation on extrajudicial killings was ‘part of the plan B’ of the Liberal Party to destroy the credibility of President Duterte and impeach him to be able to install their own president.

And Cayetano questioned the intention of Senate Committee on Justice for presenting a witness without proper confirmation.

“I’m asking about you, [Sen. Leila de Lima], your motive, and the motive of your party in this hearing… I am testing whether [the witnesses are credible] or is this part of the plan B of the Liberal Party …” Cayetano said during the hearing.

He also argued the claims of De Lima that there were now 3,526 fatalities in the drug war, saying there are only 1,506 killed during Duterte’s term.

Meanwhile, the Manila Times reported that President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines is considering buying military equipment from China and Russia, vowing to modernize the Armed Forces to improve its capability to address insurgency and terrorism.

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