Pimentel denies Senate panel request for custody of alleged ex-‘DDS’ hitman

MANILA — Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel on Thursday denied the request of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the custody of alleged ex-Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato.

This was confirmed by Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV who himself requested that the witness be placed under legislative immunity during the senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings.

”Sen. Pimentel’s office has just informed us that he has denied the committee’s request for Senate custody of Mr. Edgar Matobato,” Trillanes office said in a text message sent to media.

Matobato, 57, claimed that the then Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte recruited him as a member of the Lambada Boys which eventually became known as the DDS, tasked to kill criminals in Davao City from 1988 to 2013.

He recalled how the group was ordered by Duterte himself to kill criminals and non-criminals alike citing the killing of bodyguards of then mayoral candidate Prospero Nograles who ran against his daughter, Sara Duterte in 2010, a certain Richard King who was a rival of incumbent Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte over a woman; radio reporter and critic of Duterte, Jun Pala; and an unnamed fixer who worked at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) among others.

Pimentel has yet to release a statement on the issue.

Senator Leila de Lima, Chair of the Committee, earlier expressed hope that Matobato would be granted legislative immunity since making his revelations was not an easy task.

“He himself said that he wanted to come out and speak what he knew. What he did was not easy,” De Lima said.

Matobato was previously under the Justice Department’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) since 2014 when De Lima was still justice secretary.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson meanwhile questioned the witness’ credibility since he was not able to name the person who invited him to testify at the Senate.

De Lima, after being asked why she would not allow to divulge who tipped Matobato, said that she could not talk about because there was a “confidentiality provision under WPP (Witness Protection Program) law.”

“I can confirm that he was a DDS self-confessed hitman but what happened when he was under WPP, the situation is covered in the confidentiality provision,” De Lima said.

She meanwhile denied having anyone “coach” the witness noting that his inconsistencies to details showed that he was trying to be truthful.

The neophyte senator also dispelled Cayetano’s accusation that the witness testimony was part of the plot of the Liberal Party to oust the President.

She said that Matobato decided to testify because he wanted to show that the killings in Davao City had the same pattern happening in Metro Manila. Azer Parrocha/PNA/northboundasia.com