Davao Death Squad ‘creation of media’ – Dela Rosa

Bea Cupin

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Davao Death Squad ‘creation of media’ – Dela Rosa

LeAnne Jazul

PNP chief and former Davao city police director Ronald dela Rosa denies the existence of the infamous ‘Davao Death Squad’

MANILA, Philippines – The so-called “Davao Death Squad” and one of its alleged former members may have been the subject of a heated Senate hearing on Thursday, September 15, but as far as the Philippines’ top cop is concerned, the “DDS” is just a “creation of media.”

Ilang beses ko… yung DDS na sinasabi nila, creation lang yan ng media. Ang media ang nagkumpuni ng pangalan na yan, Davao Death Squad. Pero wala talagang tao na sinasabi mong Davao Death Squad na isang grupo. Walang ganoon,” he told reporters in a chance interview after the hearing.

(I’ve explained many times… the DDS that they’re saying, it’s merely a creation of the media. It’s the media that created that name, Davao Death Squad. But there’s no such thing as people that are part of the so-called Davao Death Squad. It doesn’t exist.)

The so-called “Davao Death Squad” is a loose group of vigilantes that supposedly targets suspected criminals in Davao City. President Rodrigo Duterte, Davao mayor for over two decades, has long been linked to the group but no case was ever filed against him.

On Thursday, during a Senate hearing on the rise of killings linked to President Duterte’s “war on drugs,” the supposed death squad took center stage after Senator Leila de Lima presented a witness who claimed that he was once one of its members.

Edgar Matobato, speaking before the Senate committee on justice, claimed to have been a member of what was then-called the “Lambada Boys,” composed of Scout Rangers based in Davao. Matobato said he was once a member of the civilian militia before he was supposedly recruited into the kill squad.

Answering questions from lawmakers, Matobato alleged that President Duterte and his son, Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, ordered criminals and sometimes personal enemies executed. Matobato also implicated Dela Rosa, claiming the police general knew of their activities then.

Dela Rosa dismissed these claims.

Alam ko merong vigilante diyan dahil may namamatay nga eh. May namamatay. And ever since magtanong kayo sa record ng Davao, ilang beses ko hinahamon itong mga vigilante or kung tawagin man yung Davao Death Squad kung yan naman yung gustong itawag, ilang beses ko yan sila hinahamon ng barilan dahil ayaw ko ang ginagawa nila na extrajudicial killings,” he said.

(I know there are vigilantes out there because people are dying. And ever since, you can ask Davaoeños, several times I challenged these vigilantes or this so-called Davao Death Squad to a gun duel because I don’t like these extrajudicial killings.)

Who is Matobato?

Dela Rosa said he does not know Matobato personally but admitted that he’s heard the name before. Matobato, he said, is a known “gun for hire” in Davao City.

Asked if they tried to arrest Matobato before, Dela Rosa said: “Eh kung kilala ko yung mukha niya noon matagal ko nang hinuli yan. At pag hinuli ko, alam kong lalaban yan dahil hitman ng eh. Pero hindi ko pa talaga nakita ang mukhang iyan.”

(If I had known how he looked like, I would’ve caught him long ago. And if I did, I’m sure he would fight back because he’s a hitman. But I’ve never seen his face before.)

Matobato supposedly fled Davao in 2014, after authorities tried to implicate him in the killing of Richard King, a Cebuano businessman. Matobato claimed it was Paolo Duterte, the President’s son and current vice mayor of Davao, who ordered King killed. After moving from one province to another, Matobato went to the Commission on Human Rights and later, the justice department, where he was admitted under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

He said he left the WPP this year, a little after Duterte won the presidency during the May 2016 elections.

Asked if the PNP would investigate Matobato’s claims, Dela Rosa said they were willing to take him in and turn him into a “state witness.”

Pero maniniwala ba kayo, magtiwala kaya ang senado samin? Ibigay kaya sa amin ng chairman ninyo (But would you believe that the Senate would trust us? Would the chairman ever turn him over to us)?” said Dela Rosa, referring to committee chairman De Lima. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.