SEVERAL senators expressed doubt at the credibility of supposed hitman Edgar Bernal Matobato with Senator Panfilo Lacson likening him to former whistleblower Angelo Mawanay who accused him of corruption and other crimes, but eventually recanted his claims.
“As an expert investigator, Edgar Matobato is not a credible witness,” said Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, after he grilled Matobato who claimed to have been a member of the so-called “Davao Death Squad” at a Senate justice committee hearing on extrajudicial killings.
“You heard him, his tone changed under my questioning. He was not was definite in his narrative,” Lacson said, conceding that Matobato may have been a civilian asset of the police but was only trying to make what little he knew to be more extensive than it really is.
“He may really know something but not that extensive. Or maybe he only knows fragments and is only trying to make it dramatic,” Lacson said. “I would likely back off from a witness like that. When you present a witness, you should vet him well.”
Matobato claimed that he was a farmer who was recruited into the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit of the Scout Rangers in Davao City and later joined the so-called “Lambada Boys” who were supposedly tasked to execute drug pushers, rapists and snatchers in Davao City.
Matobato also claimed that he used to frequent the Davao office of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, which he said was headed by now Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, in 2002.
But Lacson, who also used to head the PAOCTF, said the unit was abolished by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001.
He also claimed that he was part of the team that executed an international terrorist, named Sali Makdum, whom they abducted in Samal Island and brought to the PAOCTF office but Lacson could not recall the name.
A check with veterans in the intelligence community also denied knowledge of any foreign terrorist in the Philippines by the name of Sali Maktum during that time, but suggested that the name may be an alias.
Matobato also claimed that De la Rosa was aware of the operation since he was head of the PAOCTF unit in Davao City, but the PNP confirmed that the unit was already dissolved at that time and he was already assigned to Camp Crame.
Lacson noted that Matobato claimed Duterte ordered the killing of hotelier Richard King who was killed at a fastfood chain outlet in 2014, but Lacson pointed out that the businessman was killed in his office.
Davao City residents claimed that Matobato had an unsavory reputation as a hired killer in Davao City even before Dela Rosa became Davao City police chief, but was dismissed from the militia when officials learned he was a gun for hire.
Matobato was previously residing on Washington St., Barangay. 39-D, before he disappeared in 2014 after the King killing.
Senator Alan Cayetano also pressed Matobato why he claimed Duterte’s son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte is a drug addict and Matobato said he just looked like he has been on drugs.
When Cayetano asked how he came to the Senate, Motabato only replied that he had been hiding at a remote seminary in San Fabian, Pangasinan but would not say who helped him come to Manila.
Matobato swore he voluntarily came out in the open because his conscience has been bothering him and that he ready to face the consequences of his testimony.