Slain billionaire’s kin, Ping doubt hitman’s story
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The family of the late Richard King, a wealthy Cebu hotelier gunned down in Davao City in 2014, disputed yesterday the testimony of a Senate witness linking a son of President Duterte to his death.

“The King family is strongly denying the love triangle angle being peddled by (Sen. Leila) De Lima’s witness, self-confessed Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato,” Rep. Harry Roque of party-list group Kabayan, who was King’s lawyer, said in a statement.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, also questioned the credibility of Matobato. De Lima’s committee on justice and human rights conducted the hearing jointly with Lacson’s committee.

“Police Supt. Leonardo Felonia was charged for King’s murder. Not once was the name of (Davao City) Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte ever mentioned in the course of the investigation,” he said.

“The story that seems to be the most popular is that a businesswoman paid P20 million to have Richard King killed. She contacted Felonia to look for killers,” he said.

In his Senate testimony on Thursday, Matobato claimed that President Duterte and his son Paolo were supposedly behind the death of many people in their city.

He said it was Paolo, now vice mayor of the city, who ordered King’s killing.

“Pinatay si Richard King doon sa Davao City. Ang nag-utos nyan si Paolo Duterte. Ito si Paolo Duterte nagra-rival sila ni Richard King sa babae  (Richard King was killed in Davao City. It was Paolo Duterte who gave the order. Paolo Duterte and Richard King had a rivalry over a woman),” Matobato said.

He claimed he knew the woman only by her last name Ochoa, and that she owned a McDonald’s outlet in the city.

The Senate witness said King was killed inside the McDonald’s restaurant but Lacson said the killing actually took place inside the businessman’s office.

The building where King’s office was located is near a McDonald’s restaurant.

In his statement, Roque said his former client’s family “is appalled by the gall of Senator de Lima in dragging the death of the Crown Regency owner in her attempt to smear the name of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“The family of Richard King has already undergone enough trauma with his death. They are now being subjected to undue emotion distress because of the vain desire of Senator De Lima to discredit the President,” he said.

He said as a lawyer, he noted that Matobato had “major inconsistencies” in his testimony, including saying he was at the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) headquarters in 2002 when the task force was actually abolished in 2001.

“This was Senator De Lima’s defense strategy: stage an offense knowing that the truth on her drug dealings will soon be revealed at the House of Representatives next week,” he said.

De Lima has described the upcoming House inquiry as “Duterte’s kangaroo court” that is out to convict her. Roque also said it is possible the United States is plotting to unseat Duterte.

“The Senate testimony came immediately after the President confirmed he wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy. It is too much of a coincidence that the testimony intended to pave the way for his ouster came immediately after President Duterte declared his independent stance,” he said.

Lies, fabrication

From Cagayan de Oro City, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre issued a statement calling Matobato’s testimony “lies and fabrication.” He also called the Senate witnesses’ testimony a product of “a fertile and a coached imagination.” 

Aguirre was in Cagayan de Oro yesterday for a conference of prosecutors.

The DOJ chief said Matobato could not just have arrived at the Senate without being invited or told of the inquiry.

Aguirre said he personally knows the case of Benjamin Laud because he had lawyered for him. In the Senate hearing, Matobato said many of the victims of the so-called Davao death squads were buried at a property owned by Laud.

“I was there when the Commission on Human Rights, then headed by Senator De Lima, ordered the bodies of the alleged victims of extrajudicial killings to be exhumed at Laud’s firing range in Maa, Davao,” the DOJ chief said, adding the bodies did not prove anything.

“There were statements that they were bodies of people who were executed during the Japanese occupation,” he said.

He said he found it strange that despite De Lima’s having headed both the DOJ and the CHR, no case had been filed against Duterte.

“Senator De Lima had more than six years to file any case she deems worthy to file,” said Aguirre.

“Why only now when there will be a coming House of Representatives’ hearing on why drugs proliferated in the Bureau of Corrections? Who was heading the DOJ during that time? The Bureau of Corrections was under the DOJ,” he said.

“This is futile attempt to divert the public’s attention against the parties who are responsible for drugs in the BuCor,” he added.

Aguirre said two of some 20 witnesses in the forthcoming House hearing on drugs at the NBP are set to testify on De Lima’s allegedly receiving P5 million in drug money delivered to her home.

He also warned Matobato of the consequences of his admission that he had killed some 50 people, especially if he fails to qualify in the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures and somebody is really desperate,” he said.

Gun-for-hire

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Matobato was a “gun-for-hire” now being used to destroy the names of officials.

Speaking to reporters during his visit at Camp General Simeon Ola in Albay, Dela Rosa denied having met Matobato in the past, saying he would have been dead had they crossed paths when he was still assigned in Davao City.

“When I heard his name (during the Senate hearing), I remembered. If we had met before, he would have been dead already,” he said in Filipino, recalling his challenging vigilantes operating in Davao City to a gun duel.

“Maybe it is true that he has killed on orders (of other people), but now he is attributing it to random people,” said the PNP chief.

The PNP chief also denied having ordered – as claimed by Matobato – the killing of a supposed international terrorist when he was head for eastern Mindanao of the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.

“It was scripted. A lot of lies were told… I never met the person, never in my whole life,” he said.

He also raised doubts on Matobato’s claim that the younger Duterte ordered the killing of King over a woman.

“She is already old,” Dela Rosa said of the woman for whom Paolo supposedly committed murder. – With Marvin Sy, Janvic Mateo, Giovanni Nilles, Gerry Lee Gorit, Celso Amo, Christina Mendez

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