The whistle-blowers against Duterte and his close allies

MANILA, Philippines – A man formerly known only as "Bikoy" surfaced on Monday, May 6, to reiterate his allegations against members of the close circle of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

In a press conference, Peter Joemel Advincula reiterated what he claimed in a series of videos: Presidential son Paolo Duterte and senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go, among others, are part of a drug syndicate operating in Misibis Bay in Albay. These allegations were dismissed.

Advincula is not the first whistle-blower to go public against either Duterte or his close allies. There have been 4 people who, since 2016, have gone out in the open with their allegations. Only one is not facing a criminal case but all are currently in hiding out of fear for their lives.  

Who are these people? 

SELF-CONFESSED HITMAN. Edgar Matobato claims to be a former member of the Davao Death Squad. File photo by Joseph Vidal/PRIB

SELF-CONFESSED HITMAN. Edgar Matobato claims to be a former member of the Davao Death Squad.

File photo by Joseph Vidal/PRIB

Edgar Matobato
First went public: September 15, 2016
Status: In hiding  

Self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato first surfaced before a Senate hearing on September 15, 2016 where he insisted on the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) – a notorious group known for the reported thousands of killings it conducted during the mayorship of Duterte. 

According to Matobato, the group carried out the killings of drug users, petty thieves, and other criminals before the targets became people who were at odds with either Duterte or his son, Paolo.

The DDS killings were investigated in 2009 by the Commission on Human Rights headed by now-senator Leila de Lima. (TIMELINE: Probing into the Davao Death Squad)  

The Senate probe, meanwhile, was terminated on October 13, 2016. According to then-committee chair Senator Richard Gordon, there is not enough proof that Duterte ordered any killings that the DDS allegedly carried out. (READ: Senate ends probe: Neither Duterte nor state sponsored killings)

In December 2016, Matobato filed before the Office of the Ombudsman criminal and administrative complaints against the Duterte father and son, former police chief director general Ronald dela Rosa and 25 alleged DDS members over alleged summary executions in Davao City.

But after testifying before the Senate, Matobato faced a string of arrest warrants. 

In October 2016, a Davao court issued an arrest warrant against him for failing to show up for his arraignment over charges of illegal possession of firearms filed against him in 2014. He surrendered at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame. 

He also faces a frustrated murder case filed by retired agrarian reform adjudicator Abeto Salcedo Jr, whom he allegedly tried to kill in 2014. Matobato surrendered and posted bail in March 2017 after a Digos City Regional Trial Court issued an arrest warrant. 

In March 2017, a Panabo City RTC issued an arrest warrant against Matobato in connection with the kidnapping of a certain Sali Makdum in 2002.

Matobato has been in hiding since then. 

RETRACTION. Davao cop Arturo Lascanas retracts his previous denial of his involvement in the Davao Death Squad. File photo by Jasmin Dulay

RETRACTION. Davao cop Arturo Lascanas retracts his previous denial of his involvement in the Davao Death Squad.

File photo by Jasmin Dulay

Arthur Lascañas
First went public: February 20, 2017
Status: In hiding 

Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas, whom Matobato tagged was Duterte’s “right-hand man," retracted his previous denials and corroborated the earlier claims about his and Duterte’s involvement in the Davao Death Squad. (READ: Redemption or destabilization? What Arthur Lascañas is about)

His 180-degree turn was announced publicly in a February 20, 2017 press conference organized by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). 

The retired Davao policeman said that they were rewarded P20,000 to P100,000 per hit by Duterte. He also confessed to being involved in the murder of his two brothers who were part of the illegal drug trade.

The Senate reopened its probe after Lascañas’ confessions. It was terminated after only one hearing on March 6, 2017 with Senator Panfilo Lacson saying that the information presented by the retired Davao police will be “filed and noted.”

Two months after on May 22, 2017, the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs said in a report that the Davao Death Squad does not exist. 

In June 2017, Davao City RTC Branch 10 in Davao City ordered the arrest of Lascañas for murder and two counts of frustrated murder in connection with the death of radio broadcaster Jun Pala in 2003.

Lascañas is currently in hiding outside the Philippines. He left the country on April 8, 2017.

TOLERATED. Eduardo Acierto surfaces to say the Duterte government ignored his intelligence report on Michal Yang. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

TOLERATED. Eduardo Acierto surfaces to say the Duterte government ignored his intelligence report on Michal Yang.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

Edgardo Acierto 
First went public: March 24, 2019 
Status: In hiding 

Veteran anti-drug operative Eduardo Acierto accused President Duterte and the PNP of ignoring an intelligence report on presidential economic adviser Michael Yang’s alleged drug links.

Officials from the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) confirmed receiving the documents where Acierto, a former deputy director for administration of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG), detailed Yang’s alleged links to illegal drugs. 

PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino said that he delivered the report to Malacañang but the Palace cleared Yang in its own probe.  

Acierto was an anti-narcotics operative for 18 years. He was implicated in the shipment of shabu-packed lifters to the Philippines in 2018. The same year, President Duterte accused him of being involved in the illegal drug trade with his former teammates in the PNP. 

He has been hiding since Duterte’s latest public accusation, but went public again on March 24, 2019 to say that “drug lords have penetrated the upper echelons of government” and that “[the President] tolerated them.” (READ: Finding Acierto)

After he surfaced, Duterte asked the military and police why Acierto is still alive.

Malacañang is currently offering a P10-million bounty for the capture of Acierto after Manila RTC Branch 35 issued an arrest warrant against him for his alleged involvement in the importation of shabu in 2018. 

BIKOY. Peter Joemel Advincula goes public after his videos against key members of the Duterte circle went viral. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

BIKOY. Peter Joemel Advincula goes public after his videos against key members of the Duterte circle went viral.

Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

Peter Joemel Advincula
First went public: May 6, 2019
Status: In hiding  

Peter Joemel Advincula was only known as Bikoy before he revealed his true identity on May 6, 2019, reiterating charges against people close to President Duterte.  

In the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos that went viral, Advincula claimed that the drug syndicate he worked for also allegedly involved Paolo Duterte and Bong Go, among other businessmen and politicians.

He said that he was part of the "transmitting and facilitating team” that operated in Misibis Bay, Albay, and that part of his work was scanning the tattoos of “senior” members, including Duterte's son and Go.

Advincula said he wants to sue the two and Manases Carpio, the husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. He is now seeking legal assistance from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), saying that he is prepared to testify should the Senate launch an investigation.

Prior to going public, the Duterte government has been hell-bent on looking for the people behind the Bikoy videos.  

In fact, a webmaster named Rodel Jayme was arrested and will be charged with inciting to sedition over the spreading of videos damaging to Duterte and his family. (READ: Looking at 'inciting to sedition' in the time of Duterte)  

Before 2016

Matobato, Lascañas, Acierto, and Advincula are not the only ones who have information on alleged involvement in illegal activities of Duterte family members and close allies. 

Even before Duterte took office, many already went to key government agencies and disclosed what they knew. 

Documents obtained by Rappler from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) show that accusations of summary killings during the mayorship of Duterte were obtained from 4 individuals as early as 2009. (READ: Lascañas, Matobato were not the first DDS whistle-blowers)

A 2009 confidential cable published by WikiLeaks also showed that then-CHR Region XI director Alberto Sipaco Jr, a member of Duterte's fraternity Lex Talionis, told then-United States ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenny that Duterte knew about the killings and permitted them. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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