Edgar Matobato surrenders at Camp Crame

Bea Cupin
Edgar Matobato surrenders at Camp Crame
(2ND UPDATE) PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa assures the safety of the chief accuser of President Rodrigo Duterte while in police custody

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato on Friday, October 7, surrendered at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame after a Davao court issued an arrest warrant against him.

Matobato – who had accused President Rodrigo Duterte of ordering summary executions of suspected criminals, among others, when he was Davao City mayor – was accompanied by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV at Camp Crame past 9 am.

The alleged former Davao Death Squad member was then taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group National Capital Region (CIDG NCR) office to  undergo booking procedures. He had a chance conversation there with Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

An arrest warrant was issued against Matobato this week for failure to show up for his arraignment over charges of illegal possession of firearms filed against him in filed against him 2014, a bailable offense.

He will likely spend the weekend under CIDG custody. Police will have to present Matobato before the Davao court that issued the warrant against him before he is assigned a detention facility.

Matobato was presented before a Senate committee investigating the rise of killings in Duterte’s “war on drugs.” The probe, then led by Senator Leila de Lima, eventually zoomed in on the supposed existence of the so-called “Davao Death Squad,” a vigilante group that targets suspected criminals. (READ: Matobato tells Senate: They can have me killed, I won’t run)

Matobato said it was Duterte himself who formed and gave orders to the supposed death squad. Duterte has denied these claims.

PNP chief: I’ll protect Matobato

Dela Rosa, who Matobato also accused of being part of the death squad, assured Trillanes and the public that the self-confessed hitman would be safe under the custody of the CIDG.

“I am giving the assurance na mamamatay si Matobato (that if Matobato dies, it will be) over the dead bodies of these CIDG personnel who are assigned to escort him. That’s my word,” Dela Rosa said in a press conference following Matobato’s surrender.

Asked about their conversation at the CIDG NCR headquarters, Dela Rosa said Matobato “aired his side” and told him about an infected wound on his back.

“We are both from Davao. Sabi niya (He said), he knows me pretty well. Alam niyang mabait akong tao. Sabi niya sa akin: Mabait ka na tao, Sir, kaya kampante ako na sa iyo ako dinala ni Senator Trillanes (He knows I am a good person. He told me: I know you’re a good person sir so I’m confident that Senator Trillanes brought me to you),” said Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa spent most of his career in the Davao region and was appointed chief of the Davao City Police Office for over two years. Matobato, meanwhile, hails from nearby Samal Island but also spent time in Davao City.

Trillanes earlier told media they prefer that Matobato stay in Manila than in Davao, where the case against him was filed. Matobato’s lawyers have appealed the arrest warrant and are requesting that the case be moved to a Manila court.

Dela Rosa insisted that Davao would still be safe for Matobato because it is “under his control.”

“‘Yung safety and security is a matter of perspective. Ako (The aspect of safety and security is a matter of perspective. As for me) I respect [Dela Rosa]. He has given me his word. I don’t have any reason to doubt that,” said Trillanes.

Senators allied with the administration had thumbed down Matobato as a credible witness, citing “inconsistencies” in his testimonies. (READ: Matobato’s hits and misses)

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III had denied De Lima’s request that Matobato be granted protective custody by the Senate. Pimentel had explained that Matobato’s testimony was beyond the scope of the inquiry, which was supposed to focus on extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

Matobato used to be under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program during the previous administration, but left it when it became clear that Duterte had won the presidency.

He went into hiding, but later decided to volunteer to testify at the Senate inquiry. – 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.