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Shouldn’t Matobato be locked up afterwards?

What do we do with somebody like Edgar Matobato?

He proclaims to have killed 50 persons over 26 years, yet enjoys protective custody of two senators of the realm, de Lima and Trillanes. Should not a confessed serial murderer be locked up, to protect society from any more slayings?

But he could have vital info on the ongoing extrajudicial killings, they say, so hear his tale of murders under Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte in 1988-2013. Fine, but why only now? He already was in de Lima’s care as far back as 2014, when she was Secretary of Justice. Supposedly he told her (and her two successors) then the same story he did last Thursday. That is, that he was in Duterte’s select death squad, that the city mayor codenamed Charlie Mike masterminded the 50 murders plus 1,000 more, but that he left because of a falling out in 2014. Presumably he is so credible then as now to be presented to the Senate and the world media. Yet why was his story not used to bring the mayor to justice then? What is the purpose of hearing him now that the mastermind is immune from suit as President? And what would he know about today’s killings, when he swears to be incommunicado – no radio, television, phone, or Internet – ever since leaving the Witness Protection Program in May 2016 upon Duterte’s presidential victory?

His testimony, they claim, could establish the pattern of Duterte’s killing spree in Davao then and Philippines-wide today. If so, where is his affidavit about that theory, which de Lima and Trillanes must have made him prepare before his Senate debut? For that matter, where is his original affidavit, the one that merited him protected witness status, to be fed, clothed, and sheltered at society’s expense? Why did he not bring those two basic documents, to at least refresh his memory about crucial dates? As it happened, he was so imprecise as to state 2003 as the year when his squad allegedly prepared to ambush then-human rights commissioner de Lima in Davao, when she actually went there in 2009 to investigate the “Davao Death Squad.” Sure, some people are good in remembering details but can be so poor with dates, de Lima excuses him. But can society readily believe a witness who misses a date not by a few days or weeks or months, but six long years?

He finished only first grade, de Lima further begs for understanding. Okay, but he didn’t sound so undereducated at the Senate. Such simpleton from a farming barrio with no telecoms would speak only the local Visayan. Yet he replied snappily and comprehendingly to questions that the senators, in playing to the national and world media, crafted in English and Tagalog. It came out later from records of the Davao City Hall, where he once was a temporary employee, that he graduated from high school. Why would a smart high schooler pretend to be a poor first grader?

Dates and schooling are not his only glaring inconsistencies. He swore to have bodyguarded for Duterte’s growing son Paolo to and from the Ateneo de Davao University everyday. Yet Paolo never went there for elementary, high, college, or post-graduate school. Paolo supposedly ordered the assassination of a prominent hotelier due to love triangle, yet the victim’s family denies ever suspecting the guy of the crime. He swears too that Duterte ordered the bombings of Muslim mosques in retaliation for the blasts at the Catholic cathedral, yet the Ulama Council of Eastern Mindanao vehemently belies it. What do we make of those?

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He swears to now be conscience-stricken. Yet he narrates the murders with pride and glee – that he bled one victim with a knife slit of the stomach before shoving into a crocodile pit, that he wrapped most others’ heads with packaging tape to make recognition difficult if peeled off from decomposing faces, that he tore open and stuffed their abdomens with rocks to prevent floating when thrown into the sea, that his gang of seven even strangled and chopped up most of the 1,000 corpses, and buried them in just one plantation because they could do so with impunity. Were those details – victims, circumstances of deaths, skeletal remains – checked if true? Did he not have two years to make the justice department work on those?

Thinking Filipinos detest the ongoing extrajudicial murders. They fear where this situation would lead, in which police and unknown groups can kill and get away with it. They want a return to sanity. But is the appearance of a confessed mass murderer the solution?

Granting that de Lima and Trillanes are not the bungling users that they are, and by chance are able to uphold justice, and even bring down Duterte as suspected to be plotting, what then do we do with somebody like Matobato? Will we be made to glorify him as a hero? Or should he not be locked up as a murderer, if not a looney?

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