5 cops off the hook for Matobato torture rap

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2016 02:19 PM | Updated as of Sep 23 2016 04:28 PM

DOJ junked torture, arbitrary detention complaints on day of Duterte's inauguration

MANILA (UPDATED) - The criminal complaints filed by self-confessed killer Edgar Matobato against 5 policemen for torture, arbitrary detention, and violations of the rights of a detained or arrested person were dismissed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as early as last June, even before he publicly tagged President Duterte of being behind the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).

In fact, the resolution on the cases was dated June 30, 2016, the day of President Duterte's inauguration as the 16th president of the republic.

In the 8-page resolution obtained by ABS-CBN News, the DOJ, through Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit, junked the charges against police Senior Superintendent Vicente Danao, Jr., SPO4 Arthur Lascañas, SPO2 Rizalino Aquino, SPO2 Bienvenido Furog, and SPO1 Reynante Medina "for insufficiency of evidence to establish probable cause."

Danao and Medina were charged by Matobato and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Anti-organized and Transnational Crime Division-Death Investigation Unit with torture, as penalized under Republic Act (RA) No. 9745, and violations of RA No. 7438, "An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation As Well As the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers, and Providing Penalties for Violations thereof."

Lascañas, Aquino, and Furog, meantime, were charged for arbitrary detention.

The DOJ said that while Matobato claimed that he was "unlawfully arrested and eventually detained by respondents from June 19-26, 2014," evidence, including a copy of an excerpt from the daily records of the Investigation and Detective Management Branch of the Davao City Police Office, were presented by respondent police officers that he was arrested for violation of RA No. 10591, also known as he "Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act."

"Matobato was arrested without a warrant of arrest because police officers... actually recovered from his possession and control, the following: 1) .45 caliber pistol with serial number 071250; 2) Firearm License Card with expired permit to carry ID...; and 3) three pieces of magazine of same caliber loaded with twenty nine rounds of ammunition.

"Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is the time-honored principle that the law bestows upon a public official the presumption of regularity in the discharge of one's official duties and functions," the resolution read.

The DOJ added that given the validity of Matobato's arrest, it follows that "his detention is likewise lawful."

"Evidently, respondents have the right to detain complainant Matobato within the period provided by law or rules," the resolution read.

The DOJ added that the policemen were able to file the appropriate charges against Matobato before the prosecutor's office. The case was eventually filed with the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, 11th Judicial Region, Davao City. Matobato posted bail on June 30, 2014.

BROKEN CHEST BONE

On the charge of torture, the DOJ said that while Matobato claimed that his alleged torture broke a bone in his chest, an NBI Medico-legal Report showed, among other findings, that the "radiologic report of chest" on June 23, 2015 gave "negative" chest injury findings or negative traces of "a healing bone or healed bone in his chest."

The statement of his witness, Joselita Abarquez, regarding the supposed torture also fell as "hearsay," the resolution pointed out.

The DOJ further stressed that since Matobato was discharged from the DOJ Witness Protection Program (WPP) upon his request, "there is no more material witness in this criminal case considering that no information was given... whether he still intended to pursue the case and testify against respondents."

The DOJ resolution was approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.