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Matobato posts bail on 2014 gun raps, back in Trillanes custody

Edgar Matobato during his turnover to PNP chief General dela Rosa's custody by Senator Trillanes last Oct. 7, 2016. PHOTO BY FRANCE NOGUERA, NEWS5
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(UPDATE - 7:22 p.m.) MANILA - Confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who told Senate probers he knew of at least "1,000 killings" done by a Davao Death Squad, posted bail before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Friday morning, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said.

Matobato, who was kept for a week at a special holding area under the protective custody of National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa since Trillanes turned him over, posted the bail through his lawyer, Atty. Jude Sabio, said Trillanes in an advisory to the press. The bail was for a 2014 gun case. He also has a pending kidnapping case and two weeks ago was sued for frustrated murder by a former agrarian reform arbitrator whom he admitted having shot in General Santos City two years ago.

After posting bail through Sabio, Matobato "was then processed for release by the Crame Custodial Center. Thereafter, around 330pm, my office has resumed providing protective custody to him," Trillanes added.

A Davao court earlier issued a warrant of arrest against Matobato on a case for illegal possession of firearms in 2014, just after the Senate Justice committee dismissed him as a witness, with panel chairman Sen. Richard Gordon calling him "damaged goods."

His testimony at the inquiry into alleged extra-judicial killings that marred the administration's war on illicit drugs had triggered a shouting match between Gordon and his predecessor as committee chair, Sen. Leila de Lima, and a walkout by the latter. It was de Lima who brought in Matobato as witness, and was accused of failing to vet him well. Gordon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson later accused her of "material concealment" of a kidnapping for ransom case of Matobato, which de Lima denied.

De Lima's shouting match with Gordon and Lacson was later joined by Trillanes, who had been providing protective custody to Matobato in the absence of a formal arrangement for his security by the Senate.

During the hearing, Matobato claimed he was a former militiaman whom certain Davao City policemen turned into a death squad member during the incumbency as mayor of now-President Rodrigo Duterte.

Several police officers, mostly retired, whom he named at the Senate hearing were summoned by the Gordon panel, and all denied a "Davao Death Squad" ever existed in the 80s and 90s, and said all of Matobato's other claims were false.

Human Rights Commissioner Roberto Eugenio Cadiz had also slammed Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights and overall lead in the inquiry on extrajudicial killings, for "prematurely suspending" last week's proceedings following a verbal tussle with De Lima.

Meanwhile, Senator Trillanes indicated to InterAksyon in a text message that Senator Richard Gordon appeared to cover up allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte was behind acts of alleged state-sponsored extrajudicial killings by terminating the legislative inquiry initiated by Senator De Lima.

"Gordon won't be able to convince the people who witnessed what transpired during the hearings," Trillanes said. "Eventually the truth would come out and, when that day comes, Sen. Gordon should be remembered as one who tried to cover this up," he added.

Trillanes was reacting to pronouncements made by Gordon after terminating the investigation on Thursday, where he told reporters "there was really an effort to try and pin down Duterte" on alleged state-sponsored killings.

"You'd be a fool to say he's sponsoring killings. He'd be a fool and I don't think he's a fool," Gordon said. "I don't think it's Duterte-inspired. The President is inspired to kill junkies because he really means to eradicate drugs, but I don't think he's going to push anybody to slay and kill."