De Lima witness: Duterte ‘ordered’ killings in Davao

Bea Cupin

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De Lima witness: Duterte ‘ordered’ killings in Davao

LeAnne Jazul

(4th UPDATE) Edgar Matobato testifies that President Rodrigo Duterte, as then mayor of Davao City, ordered gunmen to kill Muslims in a mosque in 1993

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday, September 15, presented an alleged member of the so-called “Davao Death Squad” during the Senate’s probe into the rise of killings attributed to the current administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Edgar Matobato told the Senate that he was a former member of the “Davao Death Squad.” He spoke about several instances when President Rodrigo Duterte, then mayor of Davao City, instructed them to execute people. (WATCH: LIVE: Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings)

Matobato disclosed that after the 1993 bombing of the Davao Cathedral in Davao City, “Umorder si Duterte na massacre-in ‘yung mosque ng mga Muslim.” (Duterte issued the order to kill the Muslims in the mosque.)

He said it was Duterte himself who went to their office to give them the job. Matobato said he was the one who hurled the grenade at Bangkerohan Mosque.

Nobody was hurt during the explosion, however. (READ: A history of bombings in Davao)

Matobato said the members of the death squad were “ghost employees” at the Davao City Hall under the “Civil Security Unit.”

What was their job? “Pumatay nang pumatay ng tao.” (To kill and kill people.)

Matobato recalled that in 2002, Duterte again ordered them to kill a certain “Sally Makdum.” He said the group kidnapped and killed him, and chopped him to pieces.

Matobato said Ronald dela Rosa, now the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who was at the Thursday Senate hearing, knew about this operation as he was at the time the chief of Davao City’s Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.

The witness also implicated the son of President Duterte, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, in another killing. (READ: Senate witness: Paolo Duterte ordered killing of Richard King)

Hired as CAFGU

Matobato said he was first a Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member under the Scout Rangers in Davao City. He was later recruited into the “Lambada Boys.” They job was supposed to execute criminals in the city – drug pushers, rapists, and snatchers.

The Davao Death Squad is a vigilante group in Davao City that targets criminals. Duterte, who was mayor of Davao for over two decades before assuming the presidency, has long been linked to the group. 

Duterte at one time “claimed” ownership of the Davao Death Squad, but also insisted that there is no evidence to link him to the vigilante group. (READ: Davao Death Squad: What happened to the investigations?)

In May 2015, a year before the presidential elections which he eventually won, Duterte spoke at the national gathering of Workplace Advocates on Safety in the Philippines explaining that Davao is the 9th safest city in the world because his approach to criminality involved killing them.

“How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all,” Duterte was reported as saying.

This prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to call for an investigation. “Duterte’s public support for the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals should prompt a long overdue investigation into Duterte’s possible role in those deaths,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of HRW, then said.–

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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.