THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Davao is looking for self-proclaimed member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) Edgar Matobato, who is believed to be in hiding, following the arrest warrants earlier issued by the court against him.

In the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police press conference at The Royal Mandaya Hotel Wednesday, April 19, NBI-Davao head lawyer Arnold Rosales said the bureau has created a task group to look for Matobato who was, reportedly, hiding earlier in Pangasinan.

Rosales said the task group was spearheaded by the National Capital Region (NCR) under the leadership of lawyer Cesar Bacani in coordination with the other NBI offices, adding that the bureau is prioritizing the search for the accused.

"We went to Pangasinan three weeks ago to capture Matobato at his alleged hide-out, but there was no presence of the accused in the area," Rosales said.

Rosales said they also tried to coordinate with the office of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, hoping that he will facilitate the surrender of the accused since the latter was under the senator's custody.

"But the senator's chief of staff denied that Matobato is under their custody, and although there was no direct refusal to coordinate, it is still implied since they are no longer responding to NBI," he added.

He said the bureau strongly believed that Matobato is still in the country since there was a hold departure order issued against him.

The Panabo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued on March 27 a hold departure order against Matobato as he faces trial for allegedly kidnapping a Turkish national and suspected terrorist Sali Makdum last 2002.

In an order issued by Judge Dorothy Montejo-Gonzaga of the RTC Branch 4, the hold departure order was issued following the issuance of the arrest warrant against the accused on the same case.

Rosales also said the 10-day period given for Matobato's surrender has already lapsed but they will definitely issue an alias warrant, a warrant issued when the subject fails to appear in court for a scheduled court date before any plea has been entered.

"If ever Matobato will be captured from any part of the country, he will still be sent back to the issuing court in Davao Region," Rosales said.

Meanwhile, RTC Branch 19 in Digos City had previously ordered the arrest of Matobato who was found liable for frustrated murder against a retired adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Abeto Salcedo Jr.

In October last year, Matobato surrendered to the national police headquarters in Quezon City after a local court in Davao City issued an arrest warrant for his repeated failure to appear in his scheduled arraignment for the charges on illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Facilitated by Trillanes, Matobato was released on October 14, 2016 after posting bail worth P30,000.

Matobato tagged President Rodrigo Duterte, who has served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years, to be behind the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the DDS. (with Julie Anne Lira Almoite, NDDU intern)