A SELF-CONFESSED hitman of the Davao Death Squad told a Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the killing of thousands of criminals and suspects when he was still Davao City mayor.
Testifying for the first time, witness Edgar Bernal Matobato, 57, also revealed to the Senate justice and human rights committee chaired by Senator Leila de Lima that Duterte personally gave them the orders for the killings, abductions and assassinations.
“They were killed like chickens even without reason,” said Matobato, who detailed several instances when Duterte ordered them to execute people.
Duterte shot dead a Justice Department employee and ordered the murder of opponents, Matobato said.
He said he and a group of policemen and ex-communist rebels killed about 1,000 people over 25 years on Duterte’s orders—one of them fed alive to a crocodile.
Many of the others were garroted, burned, quartered and then buried at a quarry owned by a police officer who was a member of the death squad. Others were dumped at sea to be eaten by fish.
Matobato also told De Lima’s panel that after the 1993 bombing of the Davao Cathedral in Davao City, Duterte went to them and ordered them to kill Muslims in a mosque.
Matobato said he was the one who hurled a grenade at the Bangkerohan Mosque but nobody was hurt in the blast.
Matobato said the members of the DDS were “ghost employees” at the Davao City Hall under the “Civil Security Unit” whose only job was to kill people.
Matobato also testified that Duterte’s son, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, also gave the order for the massacre of Muslims at a mosque after the Davao cathedral was bombed in 1993 and the abduction and murder of Makdum.
He also bared the killings of the bodyguards of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who challenged the President in the 2010 elections.
He said the vice mayor also ordered the killing of Richard King, owner of Crown Regency Group of Hotels on June 12,2014 due to rivalry over a woman.
While he did not participate in this job, Matobato said he knew the two of the men who carried out the killing were rebel returnees paid P500,000. He also said they were later killed.
At the time, Matobato said, he was pinned for the murder of King, since he wanted to leave the DDS.
He said “Colonel Felonia” was the mastermind of the killing, referring to Supt. Leonardo Felonia.
Fearing for his life, Matobato said he went into hiding in Cebu, Leyte, and Samar and surrendered to the Commission on Human Rights in August 2014. But the CHR said they could not give him protection.
He also remembered a man who was killed after he figured in a traffic spat with the vice mayor, a fixer at the Land Transportation Office whose body was dumped in San Rafael Village in 2013, along with three women, alleged drug pushers.
He also said a certain Jun Barsabal, a member of a religious group, was killed in 1993 because “he was squatting on lands,” and the dance instructor-boyfriend of Duterte’s sister Jocelyn.
He said the dance instructor was abducted on Jacinto Street in 1993 and killed at Ma-A quarry because the Dutertes believed then he had turned Jocelyn into a “nilking cow.”
He said the president himself, using an Uzi, shot dead a certain Jamisola, an NBI agent, in 2007.
He also tagged the Dutertes as being behind the killing of radio broadcaster Jun Pala in 2003.
He accused Paolo of involvement in smuggling and protecting “Chinese drug lords” operating in Davao City. He said most of those killed were small time criminals. He said the Chinese drug lords were the vice mayor’s friends, who oftentimes went drinking with him.
He said his family did not know about his job. “All they know was that I work at the Davao City Hall,” said Matobato who said he only finished Grade One. Since then, he worked in the farm until he was recruited to join he CAFGU. He was one of the original seven membrrs of the DDS, who were then called the “Lambada Boys.”
He denied the claim of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano that he was being used by the Liberal Party to destroy the President. He said nobody ordered him to pin down the President. He just wanted to tell the truth.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a staunch ally of Duterte, rejected De Lima’s request that the committee take custody of Matobato to ensure his safety.
Matobato said that in 1993, he and other members of the death squad were on a mission when they approached a road blocked by the vehicle of an agent from the Justice Department’s National Bureau of Investigation.
A confrontation degenerated into a shootout. Rodrigo Duterte, mayor at the time, then arrived on the scene, Matobato said.
“Mayor Duterte was the one who finished him off. Jamisola [the justice department official] was still alive when he [Duterte] arrived. He emptied two Uzi magazines on him.”
His testimony fleshed out in gruesome detail for the first time long-running allegations Duterte was behind a death squad that killed more than a thousand people in Davao, where he was mayor for most of the past two decades.
“Our job was to kill criminals, rapists, pushers, and snatchers. That’s what we did. We killed people almost on a daily basis,” said Matobato.
He said they killed mainly criminal suspects and personal enemies of the Duterte family between 1988 and 2013.
Matobato said the death squad received orders either directly from Duterte or from active-duty Davao police officers assigned at the mayor’s office.
Many of the victims were abducted by members of the group who introduced themselves as police officers, then taken to a local quarry where they were killed and buried, he added.
“The officers told us ordinary killings won’t do. They are sadists,” he said, describing to De Lima how the victims were strangled.
“Then we’d remove their clothes, burn the bodies and chop them up,” Matobato said, adding that he had personally killed “about 50” of the victims.
The bodies of other victims were disemboweled and dropped at sea to be eaten by fish, while others were left on Davao streets, their hands made to clutch a handgun, he added.
One of the victims was a foreign man suspected of being an “international terrorist,” another was the boyfriend of Duterte’s sister.
One was a local broadcaster who constantly criticized Duterte, four were bodyguards of a local rival, while two were enemies of Duterte’s son Paolo, who is now Davao vice mayor, Matobato said. With AFP