DOJ clears 5 cops in Matobato torture case

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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed charges of torture and arbitrary detention filed by self-confessed former member of the Davao death squad (DDS) Edgar Matobato against five Davao-based police officers.

In an eight-page resolution, DOJ assistant state prosecutor Charlie Guhit dismissed the case filed by Matobato and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., Senior Police Officer 1 Reynante Medina, SPO2 Rizalino Aquino, SPO2 Bienvenido Furog and SPO4 Arthur Lascañas.

Dismissed were charges of violation of Republic Act 9745 on Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment; RA 7438 or the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation; and Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code on Arbitrary Detention.

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“After a careful evaluation of the complaint and the
supporting documents attached to it, we are constrained to dismiss the subject criminal cases filed against herein respondents for insufficiency of evidence to establish probable cause,” Guhit said.

After filing the case, Matobato was admitted to the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) on Sept. 1, 2014.

In his complaint, Matobato narrated that at around 10 p.m. of June 19, 2014 Medina, Aquino and Furog went to his house on Km 12, Familia Sagrada, Sasa, Davao City to inform him of an operation against drug pushers.

It turned out he was being arrested without a warrant for violating RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act. Reportedly found in his possession were a .45 caliber pistol, several magazines and ammunition.

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The DOJ ruled the arrest was valid. “Given the validity of complainant Matobato’s arrest, it follows, therefore, that his detention is likewise lawful,” said Guhit.

The DOJ also said there was no mention in Matobato’s sworn statement that he was not allowed access to his counsel or provided with one.

On torture charges against Danao and Medina, the DOJ said the torture took place almost a year before Matobato filed the instant complaint against the police officers on June 4, 2015.

The NBI’s medico-legal report on June 23, 2015 showed “negative” chest findings contrary to Matobato’s claim that he broke a bone in his chest as a result of torture.

“It was not stated in the laboratory examination results that there is a broken bone in his chest, or at least a finding of a trace of a healing bone or healed bone in his chest to support such claim. Likewise, there is no medical finding that his right ear lost much of its ability to hear,” the DOJ resolution stated.

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As for his alleged physical injuries, the medico-legal report indicated healing of wound in his left buttock. But in his sworn statement, Matobato did not mention being hit in the left buttock.

“Evidently, such injury cannot be said to be a product of the alleged torture,” Guhit added.

The prosecutor also noted that Matobato is no longer under WPP’s protective custody, based on the certification issued by the WPP on June 30 this year. It was Matobato who requested for termination of his WPP protection.

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