DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) who accused President Rodrigo Duterte of having been behind the DDS while he was mayor of Davao City, has asked the court here to recall and set aside the warrant of arrest issued Tuesday last week and to reinstate his bail bond so he can be released from the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Judge Silverio Mandalupe of Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities issued the warrant of arrest against Matobato on October 4 after he and his lawyer failed to attend the arraignment for the case filed against him in June 2014 for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
Matobato, who testified on Sept. 15 and 22 before the Senate probe on extrajudicial killings, was at the Senate on October 4 but left before he could confront or be confronted by police officers he implicated in the DDS who were summoned by the Senate.
Accompanied by Senator Antonio Trillanes, Matobato surrendered before PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa last Friday morning, October 7 after the warrant for his arrest was delivered Thursday night to Trillanes, who had protective custody over Matobato.
Matobato is presently detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Lawyer Gregorio Andolana told MindaNews that he withdrew as counsel before the arraignment because he had lost contact with Matobato after he left the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice in early May. Matobato told the Senate hearing he left WPP when it was getting clear that Duterte was winning the election.
Matobato’s new lawyer, Jude Josue Sabio, sent his messenger to file with the court early morning of October 6, Matobato’s “extremely urgent motion” to “set aside the order for issuance of arrest warrant and/or to recall arrest warrant and to reinstate bailbond.”
In his “extremely urgent manifestation” filed early Monday morning, October 10, Sabio reiterated the “extremely urgent motion” filed on October 6 and said that considering Matobato’s voluntary surrender on October 7, “in the interest of justice and as a matter of constitutional right,” an order be also issued by the court to PNP chief dela Rosa to release Matobato from PNP custody.
Trillanes had told reporters during Matobato’s surrender to dela Rosa that he would resume custody over Matobato once he is released from PNP custody.
Sabio told MindaNews the case for illegal possession of firearms is bailable and bail is a matter of right. “I don’t’ see any case (filed against Matobato) which is non-bailable,” he said.
Matobato is also facing charges of frustrated murder before the Digos City prosecutor’s office for the ambush on Atty. Abeto Salcedo, Jr., then Regional Agrarian Reform adjudicator, in Digos City on October 23, 2014 while Matobato was supposedly already under the WPP. Matobato has denied this allegation, claiming he was in the WPP then.
Salcedo filed the complaint on September 23, after seeing Matobato on television when he first testified on September 15. He said he was “caught offguard” while watching television that day “because the person whom Sen. Lacson was questioning was the very person who ambushed me and riddled me with bullets.”
Sabio said Matobato will also post bail if this case is filed in court. Matobato will also petition for a transfer of venue of hearing in both Davao and Digos cases.
The case of illegal possession of firearms stemmed from the arrest of Matobato at around 9:40 p.m. on June 19, 2014, following an information from a concerned citizen in Familia Sagrada, Km. 12 in Sasa that “one alias Edgar was carrying his firearms outside his residence causing fear and discomfort to the residen(ts) thereat.”
In his affidavit-complaint, SPO1 Reynante Medina said he seized from Matobato a black bag containing a Caliber. 45 Colt and one magazine loaded with ten rounds of same caliber ammunition.
Matobato’s account of what happened that night is different from Medina’s.
According to Sabio, Matobato said his gun was licensed but the permit to carry outside the house had expired and that the gun was taken from inside his house, not outside.
Matobato osted bail of P2,000 on June 30, 2014.
In his testimony at the Senate hearing on September 15, Matobato said he was arrested on June 19, 2014 and was allegedly tortured to admit responsibility for the killing of businessman Richard King on June 12, 2014, and to implicate Supt. Leonardo Felonia as the mastermind.
In his testimony, Matobato also said he left Davao City and went to Samar and surrendered to the security guard of the Department of Justice in Manila on September 1, 2014 where he applied for the WPP.
After taking Matobato’s affidavit, the National Bureau of Investigation filed charges of torture and arbitrary detention against Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., then Davao City police chief, Senior Police Officer 1 Medina, SPO2 Rizalino Aquino, SPO2 Bienvenido Furog and SPO4 Arthur Lascañas, whom Matobato had identified as his alleged team leader in the DDS, an allegation Lascañas denied at the Senate hearing on October 4.
The Department of Justice recently dismissed charges against five police officers.
“After a careful evaluation of the complaint and the supporting documents attached to it, we are constrained to dismiss the subject criminal cases filed against herein respondents for insufficiency of evidence to establish probable cause,” DOJ assistant state prosecutor Charlie Guhit said in a resolution.
At the Senate hearing on October 4, Medina and Aquino also denied Matobato’s allegations they were involved in the DDS killings. Furog was not able to attend the hearing citing medical reasons.
A total of 16 police officers out of the 22 Matobato implicated in the DDS killings attended the Senate hearing.
All 16 denied the existence of the DDS. Only one denied knowing Matobato. The rest said they knew him as a member of the Auxiliary Force of the Scout Rangers or as a member of the Civil Security Unit of the City Mayor’s Office.
Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights said they will no longer call on Matobato to testify because “he’s already damaged goods.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)