Matobato charged with frustrated murder for 2014 ambush while supposedly under WPP

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 September) – The alleged hitman of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) who testified before a joint Senate Committee hearing on September 22 and 25 that then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, now President of the Philippines, organized the DDS and ordered the killings is facing charges of frustrated murder before the Digos City prosecutor’s office for an October 2014 ambush while he was supposedly already under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice.

The complaint was filed before the Prosecutor’s Office in neighboring Digos City last Friday by lawyer and retired Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator Abeto Salcedo, Jr. who survived an ambush on October 23, 2014 in Digos City and who recognized the gunman when he saw Matobato on television when the latter first testified on September 15.

“I want justice,” the 64-year old Salcedo said in his supplemental affidavit.

Cartographic sketch of the suspected gunman in the October 23, 2014 ambush in Digos City of then Regional Adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform Abeto Saucedo. The sketch was made based on Saucedo's description of the man he now recognises to be Edgar Matobato.
Sketch of the suspected gunman in the October 23, 2014 ambush in Digos City of then Regional Adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform Abeto Saucedo. The sketch was made by an artist of the National Bureau of Investigation, based on Salcedo’s description of the man he now recognizes to be Edgar Matobato.

Salcedo was ambushed at around 5 p.m. on October 23, 2014 along Bonifacio Highway in Barangay Aplaya, Digos City.

At the time of the ambush, Matobato was supposed to have been already under the WPP of the Department of Justice. Matobato at the Senate hearing on September 22 said he went to the DOJ on September 1, 2014 and had stayed under the WPP until he left it this year.

It is not clear exactly when Matobato left the WPP. He said he left when it had become clear Duterte, the city’s mayor for 22 years, was going to win the Presidency.

Salcedo, now based in Cagayan de Oro City, filed the complaint in the company of his his lawyer and cousin Roy Salcedo, and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Northern Mindanao Director Cesar Bacani and NBI-Davao Region personnel.

The other complainant in the case was the office driver at that time of the ambush.

In his supplemental sworn statement dated September 16, Salcedo said that in his first affidavit executed while he was confined at the Davao Doctors Hospital in 2014, Matobato’s name was not mentioned “because he was not yet known and identified. But now, he has been identified already.”

He said he was “caught offguard” while watching television on September 15 “because the person whom Sen. Lacson was questioning was the very person who ambushed me and riddled me with bullets.”

Salcedo said he immediately contacted the NBI Special Investigator Geraldo de Luna who was handling his case and told him the gunman was Matobato “and he advised me that he will get my supplemental affidavit so that they can file the appropriate charges.”

Salcedo narrated that “while he (Matobato) was shooting at me, he was very near me, and in fact, what separate(d) us was only the door of the right front seat.” He said he could “clearly see him, was able to picture in my mind the features of his face, his nose, his mouth and the habitual expression of his mouth and how he clipped his lips and hardened his lower jaw while shooting.”

He said Matobato was the same person he described to the NBI artist who did the cartographic sketch in 2014.

Deputy prosecutor Jehrameel Libre of the City Prosecutor’s Office in Digos said they have 60 days to evaluate the complaint and decide on the filing of charges in court.

After filing the complaint, Salcedo visited the ambush site. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)