By Raïssa Robles
I was supposed to have a day off today and was so looking forward to it.
Then I happened to turn on ANC and saw this old man take the “witness” seat at the Senate probe on extra-judicial killings that was nearly empty of senators and guests.
Just another relative coming forward on yet another extra-judicial killing, I told myself and mentally filed it for later viewing.
And then Edgar Matobato started talking in a monotone about the gruesome things he did for 30 years of his life.
I could not believe it. Here was an assassin testifying about the jobs he did. Is he for real? Or someone who was planted as a witness in order to undermine the Senate investigation? Or someone who was hired to do a demolition job on President Rodrigo Duterte?
Matobato rattled off enough names of people who would be angry enough to want to kill him. From what he said, he had done so many “jobs”. How does one start verifying if what he said was true? If he was telling lies?
Senator Panfilo Lacson tried to test the “truthiness” of Matobato’s testimony by zeroing in on what he pointed out were two factual errors. First, Matobato had talked about the PAOCTF (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force) existing after 2001. Second, Matobato said hotelier Richard King was shot dead in a McDonalds restaurant.
Lacson, whom President Joseph Estrada had designated chief of the PAOCTF, pointed out that the unit was disbanded in 2001 after Estrada left the presidency and he (Lacson) ran for senator.
Lacson also said that accounts of King’s death reported him being gunned down inside the VITAL C building, not inside a restaurant.
On these two counts alone, Matobato’s testimony seemed to have failed the test.
However, fellow twitterers began digging up some interesting details. First, although PAOCTF was indeed disbanded in 2001 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the unit seemed to have lived on. For instance, Manolo Quezon pointed on Twitter to this news release from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources dated June 10, 2012 with the headline – DENR SEEKS PAOCTF HELP TO STOP MASSIVE GOLD SMUGGLING
This has to be further investigated.
Second, those who had googled the location of the Vital C building noted it was JUST BESIDE a McDonalds Restaurant.
Matobato’s allegation regarding the King murder is quite damning. He claimed that although he was not in on the operation he was later implicated in the killing. And the two hitmen were later killed. He also tagged Duterte’s vice mayor-son Paulo as the mastermind. He claimed King was killed “upon orders of Paolo Duterte because he was a rival over a woman, the owner of a McDonalds (franchise) surnamed Ochoa.” Paolo released a statement yesterday saying “I will not dignify with an answer the accusations of a madman.”
There are several intriguing points about the King murder. First, news reports had tagged a police intelligence official named Leonardo Felonia as the “mastermind”.
The name “Felonia” was among those whom Matobato kept mentioning in his testimony as having done killings alongside him in the Davao Death Squad. Matobato also claimed that while he was not personally involved in King’s murder, he was being implicated in it and noted that Felonia had been tagged by the police as the mastermind.
But why would a police intelligence official mastermind the killing of a prominent businessman?
Someone has pointed out to me that Police Superintendent Felonia writes his own blog, where he describes himself as “one of the most decorated police officers, after receiving numerous citations and awards including the Medalya ng Kasanayan, Medalya ng Papuri, Medalya ng Paglilingkod at PNP Badge of Honor.” Here is Felonia’s blog.
There is more to the King case than meets the eye, especially because President Duterte himself spoke about the King murder shortly after he assumed the presidency. According to a news report of Sunstar Cebu, an ABS-CBN video clip quoted Duterte as saying:
“I’m sorry now to say it in public and to his (King’s) family who is now in Cebu that after all, your son or your brother was involved in the drug front.”
Through their lawyer, the King family released this statement reacting to the announcement of the new President Rodrigo Duterte:
“Indeed the blood has long dried up, and it is sad that our deceased brother Richard is no longer around to defend his honor from a supposed intelligence report fed to our beloved President.”
Does the President really believe that King was murdered because of his involvement in drugs? And not because he was in a love triangle with Duterte’s son?
The King family’s lawyer would do well to interrogate Matobato on what he claims to know about the death of Richard King.
President Duterte ought to disclose what he was told about King’s drug links as a motive for his murder.
And perhaps Superintendent Felonia could be invited to the Senate probe.