Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – A supposed member of the so-called "Davao Death Squad" on Thursday, September 15, claimed Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, son of President Rodrigo Duterte, ordered the killing of Cebuano businessman Richard King in 2014.
Edgar Matobato, who claims he was a member of the infamous death squad, testified before a Senate probe into extrajudicial killings that Paolo, who was then also Davao vice mayor, ordered his group to kill King because they were "rivals" over a woman.
The Vice Mayor issued a brief statement to dismiss the claim: "What [Senator Leila] De Lima and this certain Matobato say in public are bare allegations in the absence of proof. They are mere hearsay."
"I will not dignify with an answer the accusations of a madman," he added.
Matobato was the key witness on Thursday, when the Senate resumed its probe into the rise of killings associated with the current administration's "war on drugs." Matobato earlier testified that they – supposed members of the death squad – executed criminals under the orders of President Duterte himself, who was mayor of Davao for over two decades.
King, owner of the Crown Regency Group of Hotels, was gunned down in Davao City on June 12, 2014.
Matobato, who later said he was not part of the group that carried out the alleged order against King, alleged that two of the men who conducted the hit on King – rebel returnees who were part of the death squad – were "double crossed." They were reportedly paid P500,000 for the job but were later killed.
Matobato said he was blamed as the killer of King because at that time, he already wanted to leave the team he referred to as the "heinous crime" unit of the Davao City government. He said "Colonel Felonia" was pinned down as the mastermind of the killing.
Superintendent Leonardo Felonia was detained in connection with the King case. (READ: Lacson questions witness testimony on Richard King slay)
Matobato said he was tortured for a week but was later released. He then hid in Cebu, Leyte, and Samar. In August 2014, he said he "surrendered" to the Commission on Human Rights but was told that the CHR would not be able to protect him. A month later, he went to the Department of Justice and was placed under the witness protection program.
Matobato left the program before Duterte was proclaimed president, prompting the DOJ to halt its probe into the Davao Death Squad as he was the state's sole witness. He remained unnamed until he appeared at the Senate probe. (READ: DOJ halts probe into Davao Death Squad)
Matobato said he decided to surface following Duterte's victory, as he feared for his life.
Other cases, 'drug use'
The witness also alleged that the Davao Vice Mayor had a few other people killed because he had a heated argument with them. One incident reportedly involved an altercation with a man who overtook the Vice Mayor at a gasoline station.
Matobato claimed he was the younger Duterte's "escort" since he was young. In his years providing security for Paolo, Matobato said, he saw for himself the Vice Mayor's alleged use of illegal drugs.
“Parang sadista na rin sila. Marami nang iniutos na ipapatay. Parang sabog pumupunta sa amin. Parang manok ang tao sa Davao City. Pinapatay nang walang dahilan,” said Matobato.
(They're like sadists. He ordered a lot of people to be killed. He would seem to be high on drugs when he came to us. People in Davao City are like chickens, killed for no reason.)
He also accused Paolo of involvement in illegal smuggling and protecting "Chinese drug lords" operating in Davao City. "Kasagaran na namamatay doon, maliliit lang (Most of those killed there are small time people)," Matobato alleged.
The "Chinese drug lords," alleged Matobato, were the Vice Mayor's friends.
PNP chief: 'Not true'
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who once served as Davao city police director, denied Matobato's allegation that the Vice Mayor had King killed.
"I know of Richard King's death but as far as I know, the case has been solved. Someone has been caught, the case is solved," he told reporters in a chance interview after the hearing.
Dela Rosa then gave another reason why he doubted the allegation: the age of the woman whom Matobato said was the reason behind the younger Duterte and King's differences.
"I'm not trying to defend Paolo Duterte pero sinasabi niya nilink niya na love triangle daw ang dahilan kasi karibal daw si Paolo Duterte at si Richard King doon sa may-ari ng McDo, yung babae. Grabe naman. Ewan ko ha kung papatusin ni Paolo Duterte....Tigulang naman 'yun. Matanda naman 'yung babae na iyon sa McDo. Paano sila magkaka-love triangle?" he said.
(I'm not trying to defend Paolo Duterte but the love triangle he's saying, because Paolo Duterte and Richard King are rivals because of that woman who owns the McDonald's. That's improbable. I don't know if Paolo Duterte would go for her; she's old. That woman is already old. How would they be involved in a love triangle?) – Rappler.com