Matobato tells Senate: They can have me killed, I won’t run

Bea Cupin

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Matobato tells Senate: They can have me killed, I won’t run

LeAnne Jazul

The supposed hitman of the Davao Death Squad turns emotional after hours of being grilled during a Senate hearing

MANILA, Philippines – “Maski patayin ako, hindi na ako tatakbo (Even if I get killed, I won’t run away anymore).”

Edgar Matobato, a key witness against President Rodrigo Duterte, turned emotional and broke down in tears as he testified for the second time at the Senate hearing into the rise of killings linked to the government’s “war on drugs” on Thursday, September 22.

When he first testified before the Senate committee on justice and human rights on September 15, Matobato alleged that Duterte, Davao mayor for over two decades, formed the so-called “Davao Death Squad” and himself ordered targets killed by the vigilante group.

The Davao Death Squad is a supposed group of vigilantes that target criminals and suspects in Davao City.

Duterte has been long linked to the group, but no charges have been filed against him. The President has “claimed” the squad to be under his command but his allies insist Duterte was just “exaggerating” when he claimed links to the group.

Matobato turned emotional upon questioning by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of Duterte, when he was asked to narrate how he found himself in the group.

Matobato said that in 1977, communist rebels beheaded his father in front of him. “I grew up thinking that I would enter whatever department in government to ensure my father is given justice,” Matobato said in Filipino.

He claimed that he was initially a militia man of Davao before he was admitted into the “Lambada Boys,” a group allegedly formed by Duterte that was tasked to kill criminal suspects. The group, with an initial membership of only 7 civilian hitmen, supposedly expanded to include cops and rebel returnees.

‘Where is justice?’

Matobato claimed that his co-death squad members had tortured him – and wanted him dead – because of his plans to end his stint as a hitman. He supposedly fled Davao City because of his threats. In 2014, Matobato supposedly turned to the Department of Justice and was eventually admitted into the Witness Protection Program.

Ang sa akin naman, ang gusto ko naman bago nila ako patayin, Sir, gusto ko naman mabigyan naman ako ng hustisya. Ang dami nilang inutos sa akin, Sir – pagpatay, pagganyan. Basta lang sila sumusugod sa akin. Tapos ang dami ko nang nalalaman, gusto naman nila akong patayin,” he added.

(On my part, I was hoping that before they kill me, Sir, that I will be given justice. They ordered too many things – to kill, among others. They would just come to me. I know a lot of things, and now they want to kill me.)

He voluntarily left the program shortly before the May 9 elections, when it became clear that Duterte would win the presidency.

Kaya pumunta ako dito kahit wala akong aral, nagkusang loob na pumunta dito, Sir….Maski patayin ako, hindi na ako tatakbo. Basta isasabi ko lang ang totoo. Totoong totoo. Hindi na ako pupunta kung hindi ako naghahanap ng hustisya. Puwede na akong magpakamatay, Sir, magbibigti ako. ‘Yan ang gusto ko lang, Sir:  Saan ba ang hustisya, Sir?”

(That’s why I came here even if I had little education, I came here voluntarily, Sir….Even if I get killed, I will not run away. I’ll just tell the truth. The whole truth. I would not  have come here if I weren’t looking for justice. I can kill myself, Sir, I can hang myself. That’s all I want, Sir. Where is justice, Sir?)

Matobato’s emotional plea came after hours of being grilled by Duterte’s allies in the Senate, including senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Manny Pacquiao. The senators noted some inconsistencies in his latest testimony. –

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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.