De Lima to push custody bid for Matobato despite Pimentel denial
Senator Leila de Lima has withdrawn her request for Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to grant her witness protective custody, saying she would bring the issue back to the committee on justice and human rights, which she chairs.
After all, De Lima said, her committee, which is leading the probe on the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country, has the authority to grant protective custody to a witness.
“I am perplexed, disturbed, and extremely disappointed with the Senate President’s refusal to grant protective custody to Edgar Matobato,” she said in a statement on Friday, referring to the witness, who accused President Roridgo Duterte of ordering the killings in Davao City when he was still the mayor.
While she agreed with Pimentel’s opinion that the grant of protective custody to witnesses may not be in the Senate rules, De Lima pointed out that this was a “long-standing practice, probably in any legislative body in the world, because it is an ancillary and inherent power of the legislature to support its mandate of conducting inquiries in aid of legislation.”
The grant of protective custody, like the power to cite in contempt, she said, is one of the ancillary powers inherent in Senate committees conducting legislative inquiries.
“In light of this, I am withdrawing the Committee’s request asking the Senate President to approve the Committee recommendation for the grant of protective custody to Matobato,” De Lima said.
“Instead, I will bring the issue to the committee, with the end in view of asserting our inherent and ancillary power as a Senate committee conducting an inquiry in aid of legislation to grant the witness protective custody of the Senate.”
She said the grant of protective custody, like the power to cite in contempt, “is a Senate power, not a prerogative of the Senate President.”
“It is my submission that the committee on justice and human rights as a standing committee of the Senate has the authority to grant protective custody to a witness testifying before it, on behalf of the Senate as a whole,” said the lady senator.
De Lima said that no other government agency or office, except the Senate, could provide sanctuary for Matobato, who claimed to be a former member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
“The circumstances leave no doubt, considering that it is the President who is being accused by the witness, that his security and custody cannot be left to any agency of the executive branch, leaving the Senate as his only choice for sanctuary,” she said.
“It is therefore highly irregular and incomprehensible for the Senate to be unable to perform this obligation to a witness whom it has invited on the basis of the vital information only he can provide to an inquiry conducted in aid of legislation,” she further said.
In pushing for the grant of protective custody for her witness, De Lima underscored the relevance of Matobato’s testimony to the committee’s investigation on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
She said the witness has provided the chamber vital information that shed light on the “whole complexity” of the President’s war on drugs, especially on the similarity of the strategy adopted by the DDS and that of the vigilantes that she said “now roam the whole country.”
Matobato claimed to be a former member of the DDS, which he said was ordered by then Davao City Mayor Duterte to kill several people in the province.
“The relevance of his testimony to the inquiry on extrajudicial killings is self-evident. Regardless of the personalities involved, his testimony merely shows that what is transpiring now in this country has happened before in Davao City,” De Lima said.
“His testimony raises the legitimate question of whether the DDS has anything to do or is in fact involved in the nationwide war on drugs, at least insofar as the aspect of extrajudicial and vigilante killings are concerned.” RAM/rga
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