Witness: I killed people in Davao City upon orders of Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A witness says he killed people in Davao City upon the orders of then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte. The Senate on Thursday resumed its probe on alleged extrajudicial killings during the current administration.

The witness, who identified himself as Edgar Matobato, said he is a member of "Lambada Boys", that later became the "Davao Death Squad," an alleged vigilante group in Davao City responsible for summary killings of suspected criminals.

Matobato said he was tasked to kill criminals like drug traffickers, rapists, and snatchers, among others. From 1988 to 2013, the witness said more than 1,000 individuals were killed in Davao City alone.

Also read: Lack of evidence, witness hinder probe on 'Davao Death Squad'

However, Matobato admitted not all who were killed are criminals.

"Nakokonsensya na ako kasi 'yung mga inosenteng tao nadadamay. Hindi naman totoo 'yung mga kriminal," he said.

[Translation: My conscience is haunting me because even innocent people were affected. They were not really criminals.]

In 2013, Matobato said he talked to a certain Arthur Las Cañas to reveal his plan to "retire" from the group.

"Hindi naman umayaw, hindi naman umimik. Basta umalis din ako sa opisina namin...  Hindi na ako magtatrabaho kaya matanda na ako. Maghahanapbuhay na lang ako nang marangal," he said.

[Translation: They did not decline, they did not say anything. I just left the office... I don't want to work for them anymore because I'm old. I want to get a decent job.]

Matobato said he was tortured in front of his wife and relatives, after he refused to take the sole responsibility for the killing of a certain Richard King, then fled to Cebu, Samar, and Leyte for fear of his life.

"Gusto nila akong patayin para hindi na ako makapagsalita. 'Yan talaga ang sama ng loob ko, na pumapatay nga ako ng mga tao (para sa kanila), sila pa ang pumapatay din sa akin," he said.

[Translation: They wanted to kill me to silence me. I was hurt, because I kill people for them, and yet they want to kill me.]

Upon surrendering himself to the Commission on Human Rights in 2014, Matobato said he was advised to go to the Department of Justice, to better protect him from threats to his life. He was then enlisted to the agency's Witness Protection Program - but Matobato said he left the program when Duterte won the presidency for fear that he might be killed.

No evidence

Malacañang denied the allegation of Matobato against Duterte.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella called on the public to maintain a sense of sobriety and sense of objectivity.

"I mean, after all, people do make statements everyday and while this person may sound credible, it is imperative that each and every one of us properly weigh whatever he said," Abella said.

For his part, Presidential Communications Sec. Martin Andanar said the President is not capable of ordering such killings.

"No, I do not think he is capable of doing a directive like that. Why? Eh, 'di ba, inimbistigahan na nga noon 'yan nung Commission on Human Rights noong sinaunang panahon, nung mayor pa ho si Pangulo at wala namang charge, wala naman silang nakita direktang ebidensya," he said.

[Translation: The Commission on Human Rights already conducted an investigation years ago, when the President was still a Mayor, and charges were not filed, they did not see any direct evidence.]

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong, Correspondent Cecille Lardizabal and Digital Producer Eimor Santos contributed to this report.