MANILA—Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV on Friday came to the defense of witness Edgar Matobato, alleged former member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), after senators pointed out inconsistencies in his testimonies in a Senate hearing on Thursday.
“There was a language barrier and a few of my colleagues took advantage of that. They have succeeded in showing that they are better than a Grade 1 student,” Trillanes said in a text message.
Matobato, whose first language is Bisaya, mentioned in a previous hearing that he had only finished first grade.
During Thursday’s hearing, an apparently confused Matobato had trouble understanding some words and phrases in Filipino when cross-examined by senators.
A few senators, however, were able to communicate with him in Bisaya, including Alan Peter Cayetano, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri.
This prompted Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to quip that these senators were among the few people able to understand the witness.
Trillanes also described Matobato’s inconsistencies as “trivial”.
“The inconsistencies, if any, were trivial as shown by the transcript. And, despite the badgering, Matobato was consistent about the events and other details he was sure about,” he said.
Cayetano grilled Matobato for saying that alleged terrorist Sali Makdum, one of DDS’ alleged victims, was killed upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Matobato denied that he earlier said that it was the President who personally gave orders to kill Makdum, but explained that it was Duterte’s right-hand man, SPO4 Arthur Lascaña who told him the orders came from the then mayor of Davao City.
Gordon called out Matobato for looking at the direction of Trillanes and Senator Leila de Lima as he was being questioned.
Pacquiao also reprimanded him for his inconsistencies, pointing out that no one would believe him if he continued to be inconsistent. He finished interrogating believing that Matobato had a “coach” to teach him what to say.