I WAS in Cagayan de Oro City recuperating from my angioplasty on my coronary arteries in June 2016 when I heard about the news on Edgar Matobato in middle of September that year. Matobato testified in a Senate inquiry dealing with the spate of extra-judicial killings since July 2016. He was presented by Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes. Matobato testified about the Davao Death Squad and Duterte being its alleged mastermind.
I do not know Matobato personally. Neither do I personally know de Lima and Trillanes.
As a long practicing lawyer, I immediately believed in Matobato. In an actual prosecution for murder, the testimony of a direct participant in the criminal act is very vital and can never be hearsay. By common sense, a direct participant has personal knowledge of the crime in which he participated.
Matobato had no lawyer when he appeared in the Senate. I defended him in my own small way by writing several articles which I caused to be published in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, a popular local daily newspaper in Cagayan de Oro City circulated in Mindanao.
I owe an immense debt of gratitude to Herbie Gomez, editor of Mindanao Gold Star Daily for standing steadfastly by me when he published my articles, notwithstanding the undeniable fact that we were up against a very popular president from Mindanao.
Later, my article entitled “Matobato testimony now” was printed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the center portion of the editorial page on Sept. 29, 2016. This article caught the attention of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J. who asked about me with another older Jesuit priest, Fr. Bill Kreutz (a German) in the Ateneo. Fr. Kreutz confirmed that he knew me during my Ateneo college days. He gave me a scholarship when I studied at the Ateneo.
Fr. Alejo contacted me through Facebook and told me that Matobato still had no lawyer. Fr. Alejo asked me if I had money to buy a ticket for Manila, and I said I was poor as a rat. So he bought a one-way ticket for me to Manila. On Oct. 5, 2016, I flew to Manila and on Oct. 6, 2016, I first met Matobato and Sen. Trillanes at the Custodial Center in Camp Crame where the senator surrendered Matobato due to a warrant of arrest in a firearm case in Davao.
That is how I began in this quest for justice. My job was supposed to be only the handling of the cases pending against Matobato, mostly in Davao. So for the most part afterwards, I handled his criminal cases. It came to pass that the lawyer supposed to go to the ICC did not work on the case, as agreed, so by March 2017, I was designated to go to the ICC.
After more than a month of preparation, I finally went to The Hague on my own without any companion and personally submitted my 77-page communication with the ICC. And the rest is now history.
My motivation is justice. It is not politics. I am an independent lawyer practising law. I do not belong to or actively participate in any political party in our country. It’s just that I have believed in the testimony of Matobato from the start. I was vindicated in my ardent belief when later in February 2017, Arturo Lascanas came out to corroborate Matobato’s testimony about the existence of the Davao Death Squad.
The rest is now history unfolding with tremendous political repercussions for the country and its people.