MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED 12:02 p.m.) — An alleged hitman claimed on Thursday that Sen. Leila de Lima, who headed the Commission of Human Rights, was among the targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, then mayor of Davao City.
Edgar Matobato, who confessed to killing dozens as part of the Davao Death Squad, said Duterte gave an order to ambush De Lima, who was investigating extrajudicial killings in Davao in 2009.
“Dumisisyon sila, ma’am, na aambushin ka namin doon,” Matobato told De Lima at the hearing of the Senate committee on justice on drug-related killings.
He said his group was hiding and waiting to attack De Lima and her team who were looking at a mass grave at Laud Quarry, where victims of extralegal killings were purportedly buried.
“Kinausap man doon kami sa opisina, ma’am. Pumunta kami doon, pero hindi ka na pumasok sa itaas, ma’am. Doon lang kayo sa entrada pumasok. Doon kami nagaabang na,” Matobato said.
“Buti na lang, umalis kayo.” he added.
De Lima, who was questioning Matobato at the hearing, is a known critic of Duterte. The former mayor has been linked to the Davao Death Squad, accused by human rights groups of being behind deaths of suspected criminals and other undesired individuals in the city.
Despite openly supporting the killing of criminals in his speeches, Duterte, however, has repeatedly denied having links to the paramilitary group.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, meanwhile, called Matobato’s statements lies. He said Matobato was under the Department of Justice’s witness protection program while De Lima was Justice secretary but no case was filed against Duterte.
Aguirre also said the supposed mass grave only contained four corpses of Japanese who died in World War II. — with a report from Edu Punay
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