MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles questioned the credibility of a supposed former “Davao Death Squad” member who alleged that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered killings in Davao City when he was still mayor.
“I don’t know what this guy is talking about. From the time I was chief-of-staff to the time I was elected as congressman, no supporter of ours or persons under our employ was ever killed due to politics,” said Nograles on Thursday, September 15.
“Political differences in our city [have] always been strictly on the level of difference in policy and style; it has never degraded into the level of physical or violent. That is why it is easy for us to set aside our differences and unite for the common good of Davao and the nation,” he added.
Nograles also surmised that Matobato “is being manipulated by some people to only serve their own selfish interests.”
On Thursday, Matobato claimed he was a member of the “Davao Death Squad” and told senators that Duterte instructed them to execute people in the city. Matobato said their targets included ex-body guards of Nograles’ father, former House Speaker Prospero Nograles in 2010. (TIMELINE: Witness lists killings allegedly ‘ordered by Duterte’)
That year, Duterte’s daughter Sara beat the elder Nograles for mayor.
“As far as I know, there’s not a single incident that any of my staff or security personnel who were assigned to me while I was still in politics was killed, even when I ran for mayor in 2010. Buhay pa naman sila hanggang ngayon (They’re still alive until now),” said Prospero Nograles.
“Furthermore, [the] witness could have asked [for] Speaker’s protection when I was at the height of power and could have gotten [into the] legislative protection program, security, safe house, etc. But he did not!” he added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also doubted Matobato, telling Rappler in a text message that the Senate witness’ testimony is “recycled and not credible.”
“Ako taga-Davao ako at wala naman akong alam na Davao Death Squad. Die-hard Duterte Supporter, DDS, walang Davao Death Squad. Ako, miyembro ako ng DDS,” Alvarez said in another interview in Dumaguete City.
(I’m from Davao and I don’t know anything about a Davao Death Squad. There’s only a Die-hard Duterte Supporter, DDS, no Davao Death Squad. I’m a member of the DDS.)
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar already came to Duterte’s defense, saying the President is “not capable” of ordering extrajudicial killings.
‘Political move’ by LP?
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez doubted that the accusations against Duterte would affect how the general public views him.
“It will not affect his popularity with the people at this stage with his unorthodox ways to lead,” said Suarez, who is supporting Duterte’s ongoing bloody war against crime and drugs.
Suarez added that the accusations may be considered a “political move” of the Liberal Party (LP), the party of Senator Leila de Lima who chairs the Senate committee investigating the extrajudicial killings happening under the Duterte administration.
“In any political arena, contesting political groups should outdo and crush the other one… It’s elementary,” said Suarez.