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Gone, Matobato, gone

Admitted killer Edgar Matobato – who had claimed he was a member of the purported Davao Death Squad, and whose sensational testimony against Rodrigo Duterte was probably expected by Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes 4th to trigger events that would topple the President — is gone, both literally and figuratively.

Matobato will be going the way of previous fake “star whistleblowers” like Ador Mawanay and Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, forgotten, with everyone incredulous how they had their moments of fame when their tall tales were taken hook, line, and sinker.

Even the prestigious New York Times on September 15 ran an unusually long (for one on a Southeast Asian country) report headlined: “Rodrigo Duterte Ordered Philippine Killings, Professed Hit Man Testifies.”

The article even had an embedded 5-minute video clip entitled “Life on Duterte’s Death Squad” of Matobato relating his yarn in which he made shocking claims, for example: “We would throw the body there at sea. We would tie bricks to it, the abdomen cut open so the insides were exposed, so it will sink.” The clip didn’t even have any interviewer probing it to see if he was lying or not. It only had Matobato talking, the New York Times implicitly judging that he was telling the truth.

“We were all taken for a ride by Mr. Matobato. And it’s so frustrating that after all, we’re not smarter than the first grader,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said, in reference to Matobato’s first grade education, in the Senate hearing Monday.

Justice committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon exposed in the hearing that Senator Leila de Lima had not disclosed that Matobato was charged with kidnapping for ransom of a one Makdum, whom the admitted gun-for-hire alleged was killed by Duterte’s “death squad” — with the President even knocking all of the poor man’s teeth using his golf club.

What, no more “whistleblower”? Newspapers’ front pages Sept. 15 and Oct. 4
What, no more “whistleblower”? Newspapers’ front pages Sept. 15 and Oct. 4

Seething, Gordon said: “Matobato’s kidnapping case is a vital piece of information. A very critical piece of information that should have been revealed here… In order to evade the light of scrutiny, Matobato deliberately misled us, to make us believe that he had no case, that in fact, it was not him and other people, and that it happened at a different date, and most important of all, he implicated other people here, who per NBI investigation, are not even part of that investigation.”

After a heated exchange between him and De Lima, after the lady senator’s walkout — her second — and after Gordon was about to call Matobato to explain his lies, he was informed that the “whistleblower” had vanished, spirited out by Trillanes’ staff when his kidnapping case was revealed.

A note from Trillanes’ office, who had put Matobato under his protection, reported that the admitted gun-for-hire “was no longer available to answer the panel’s questions, that he had to leave so his security won’t be compromised.”

Suddenly disappeared
That, of course, angered Gordon. He said: “Para bang nu’ng nabuko na, biglang nawala na. (It’s like, when his lies have been exposed, he suddenly disappears.”

The committee, with Trillanes keeping quiet and with de Lima having walked out of the hearing, voted to suspend the hearings indefinitely.

The committee might resume the hearing, to focus on its original intention to investigate charges of numerous extrajudicial killings undertaken as part of Duterte’s “war” against the illegal-drug industry – and not, as De Lima steered the hearing, to the alleged death squad in Davao when Duterte was its city mayor.

But nobody is betting that Matobato will ever appear again, what with the kidnapping for ransom and another murder charge (filed by a survivor) against him likely to be revived. I’ll bet a month’s salary that Trillanes would just tell the committee he couldn’t find Matobato anymore. And I don’t think Catholic nuns, as they did with Lozada, would keep Matobato, who looks as if he really had killed 50 people as he claimed, in their nunnery.

From the start, the credibility of Matobato’s testimony was shot down for its factual inaccuracies; for instance, Matobato claimed that Duterte ordered the killing of the bodyguards of Prospero Nograles, who was the mayor’s political rival in Davao. Nograles’ son quickly retorted that all their bodyguards were still alive and kicking, and while they might be Duterte’s political rivals, they belonged to one clan, who wouldn’t go on a shooting war against each other.

One major indication that this Matobato chapter is closed is De Lima’s walkout, which she had announced she was doing because Gordon accused her of concealing the fact that the fake whistleblower faced a kidnapping charge, which she said “pained” her.

That’s obviously a very flimsy excuse, and looks more like a pretext to get out of the Senate as her plot with Matobato was totally exposed. Kapatiran Party Rizalito David, a staunch defender of de Lima, however, has a different explanation. He claims in his Facebook post that “walking out is what wives (legitimately) do when husbands fail to do what they are supposed to do (David even astonishingly claimed in his post: “Mga syoki lang di nakakaintindi niyan” (Only gays do not understand that.” What? I, and most Filipinos, are syokis?)

It’s the end of this Matobato episode, and people will forget about him they have forgotten about alleged star “whistleblowers” like Ador Mawanay and Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, who turned out to be charlatans.

It is another case study of how a biased media manipulates people’s minds. It was astonishing – or not – that none of the above accounts of the Senate hearing, which demolished Matobato’s yarn, was reported at all in all broadsheets.

Contrast that to screaming headlines on September 16 when Matobato first appeared: Philippine Star: “Executioner Emerges”; Philippine Daily Inquirer: ‘Duterte Ordered Us To Kill’.

Did these newspapers report the Senate hearing the other day that demolished Matobato’s allegations? Not at all. They solely reported the denial of the “Davao Death Squad” by the four Davao policemen, whom Matobato had accused of staffing that group. The New York Times had not published any story that the Senate hearing Monday demonstrated that Matobato was telling lies.

Years from now, those with gullible minds would still claim that there was an eye-witness to Duterte’s dark deeds in Davao, but that he had just vanished.