Trillanes to surrender Matobato to PNP chief on Oct 7

Camille Elemia
Trillanes to surrender Matobato to PNP chief on Oct 7
(UPDATED) But Senator Antonio Trillanes IV describes the timing of the arrest warrant as 'highly suspicious,' saying the case against the witness was filed in 2014

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – With or without a warrant of arrest, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV would surrender witness Edgar Matobato to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald Dela Rosa on Friday, October 7, at 10 am.

This decision comes just a few hours after Trillanes announced he would surrender Matobato, a self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), to the PNP as soon as he gets the arrest warrant.

Asked why he changed his mind, Trillanes said there might be further untoward incidents if he delays the turnover of Matobato. After all, he said the warrant is already in transit.

“Sa akin kasi iniisip ko habang tumatagal na hawak ko sya, na alam namin na in transit na ‘yung warrant, parang ano eh, mas lalo magkakagulo pa. Mapagsususpetsyahan pa ko na talagang ‘di ko sya itu-turn over,” Trillanes told reporters on Thursday, October 6.

(I am thinking: The longer he is with me when we already know that the warrant is already in transit, it’s like, there might be more confusion and untoward incidents. They might suspect me all the more of not having any plans to turn him over.)

“Para ‘di na magkagulo. ‘Di ako ma-a-accuse na I’m coddling a fugitive or abetting, para nag-su-submit tayo sa processes,” he added.

(So there would be no conflict. I won’t be accused of coddling a fugitive or abetting. So we would be submitting to (legal) processes.)

The planned turnover, Trillanes said, would prove that Matobato has indeed no plan of running away from the charges filed against him. Matobato was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in June 2014, and posted bail the same month.

The senator claimed it is the witness’ decision to push through with the surrender on Friday.

“May nakakausap ako na kasama niya (Matobato) ngayon. Aware siya. Lahat ito alam niya, desisyon niya ganito ang mangyayari,” said Trillanes, who took custody of Matobato after the Senate refused to grant protection to him.

(I am talking to someone who is with him now. He is aware. He knows all these, and it’s his decision.)

Asked if he fears for Matobato’s life now that the witness would be under PNP custody, Trillanes said there is indeed a risk. He then challenged the PNP to disprove allegations against them.

Matobato testified before the Senate and accused President Rodrigo Duterte of ordering killings through the DDS while he was Davao City mayor.

“Everyone’s watching. Pagkakataon nila ipakita na ‘di ganun ang Pilipinas. ‘Pag nasa kustodiya ka ng pulis, safe ka (It’s their chance to prove that the Philippines is not like that. It’s their chance to show that if you are under police custody, you are safe),” he said.

The senator said he has already coordinated with the office of Dela Rosa. It remains unclear as of posting which PNP department would receive Matobato on Friday.

‘Irregular, highly suspicious’

But Trillanes questioned the timing of the arrest warrant, saying it is “irregular” and “highly suspicious.”

He said the case was filed as early as 2014 but the order only came two years after – at a time when Matobato testified against Duterte.

“Highly suspicious naman itong timing kasi two years na itong tumatakbo then nag-set sila ng arraignment last Tuesday na may schedule naman ng hearing dito,” Trillanes said.

(The timing is highly suspicious because this case has been going on for two years but they only set the arraignment last Tuesday, when there was also a scheduled Senate hearing.)

Despite this, Trillanes asked understanding from the judge handling the case.

Matobato only skipped the court hearing, said Trillanes, because he was supposed to testify again before the Senate last Tuesday and he had just changed his lawyer.

The Senate probe, however, did not push through after the outrage on the floor the night before.

“Gano’n pa man tayo ay nanawagan ng konting pang-unawa on behalf of Mr Matobato although it’s already stated in his motion for reconsideration dahil ‘yun na nga ang circumstances, dahil medyo alanganin siyang makapunta noon. There was no intention to deliberately miss that hearing,” he said.

(Even then, we are asking for understanding on behalf of Mr Matobato, although it’s already stated in his motion for reconsideration. It’s because of the circumstances, it was difficult for him to go there. There was no intention to deliberately miss that hearing.)

While Trillanes said it is still uncertain whether Matobato would be allowed to post bail or not, he expressed hope the latter would be given the opportunity to do so.

“Wala namang flight risk (He is not a flight risk),” the senator said. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com