President Rodrigo Duterte’s former driver-bodyguard denied claims by self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato that he is close with Duterte.
At the resumption of Senate hearing on drug-related killings, Sonny Buenaventura debunked Matobato’s testimony that he was a bodyguard of Duterte’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, or that the elder Duterte, when he was still mayor of Davao City, used to summon him for orders.
Matobato is a self-confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, allegedly controlled by the older Duterte. He told the Senate committee on justice that the President personally knew him, a claim that Duterte has denied.
Buenaventura also countered Matobato’s claim, answering “No” when committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon asked if Matobato was able to approach the mayor then.
“Kaya nakikinig ako sa mga ano niya, your honor, na pinatawag siya ni Mayor, kinuha siyang security… Lahat ng security ni Mayor Duterte, your honor, lahat policemen,” he said.
He added that Matobato was not Paolo’s security personnel.
Buenaventura admitted to knowing Matobato, though added that they were not close. He said the hitman was known as a personnel for Mayor Roger Antalan of Samal Island.
“Hindi kami nagkasama, pero nakilala niya din ako… Siguro bilang isang pulis din. Ako po (ang pulis). Nakilala niya siguro ako na isang pulis so ‘pag nakita niya ako, mag-smile siya,” he said. “Parang nag-greet sa akin. ‘Yun lang po.”
Matobato tagged Buenaventura as one of the two “second-in-command” of Duterte when he was still mayor of Davao City, the other official allegedly close to him being SPO3 Arthur Lascañas.
Lascañas, named as leader of the DDS, has also denied Matobato’s claims.
For his part, Buenaventura confirmed that he has been friends with Duterte since the President was a prosecutor. However, he denied Matobato’s other claims, including the existence of the DDS, as well as receiving or even hearing Duterte give orders to kill under the said group.
“Wala pong DDS,” Buenaventura said during interpellation by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano, Duterte’s running-mate in the May polls, then asked: “Have you ever heard him—whether face-to-face o nasa telepono siya o nandoon ka sa likod niya—tell anyone, any policeman, any go-between in Davao na, ‘Patayin n’yo ‘yan?'”
Buenaventura replied: “Ah, wala po.”
Then he answered in the affirmative when Cayetano pointed out that Duterte has instructed the police to defend themselves if their lives are in danger.
Buenaventura further denied being involved in the killing of businessman Richard King and a certain dance instructor.
“Doon lang ako kay Mayor… Focus lang ako doon,” he said.
He added: “As a security driver before, ako rin may hawak ng mga lakad ni Mayor.”
Buenaventura also confirmed that they referred to Duterte by the code name “Charlie Mike.”
However, he qualified: “Kasi noon, ang ginagamit namin noon is radio.”
He added that people in Davao more often referred to Duterte as “Mayor Rody” or even “CM,” which stood for City Mayor.