Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ
A NEW resolution would be needed before the Senate could look further into the testimony of self-described hit man Edgar Matobato, who accused President Duterte of ordering him and others to kill criminals in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was its mayor, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said on Sunday.
Pimentel, president of Mr. Duterte’s political party, PDP-Laban, said he would relay this to Sen. Leila De Lima today because the Senate committee on justice and human rights had gone “off topic” when it heard Matobato’s testimony implicating the President.
The committee, chaired by De Lima, is conducting an investigation into the recent killings of drug suspects in the government war on illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV noted that Mr. Duterte’s silence following Matobato’s explosive testimony was “unusual,” adding that the President needs to respond because this is a “direct accusation” against him.
Matobato, 57, testified at the committee hearing on Sept. 15 that the Davao Death Squad (DDS) to which he belonged killed about 1,000 people on orders of Mr. Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City. He said he himself killed at least 50 people as a member of the DDS from 1988 to 2013.
Force a vote
Trillanes said he would rise at today’s Senate session to question Pimentel’s ruling not to provide protective custody to Matobato, and possibly force the chamber to vote on the Senate President’s ruling.
“If it’s needed [for senators to vote on Pimentel’s ruling against providing Matobato protective custody], so we can know the position of each of us on this issue,” Trillanes said on a radio program on Sunday.
He said it should not be a case of Pimentel just issuing such a ruling without the approval of the other senators.
In the same radio program, Pimentel said he was just looking after the Senate’s “time, resources, direction and focus,” when he rejected De Lima’s request for the chamber to provide protective custody to Matobato.
Pimentel said Matobato’s testimony was “not important in the eyes of the Senate” because the latter was testifying on matters that supposedly happened from 1988 to 2013, which was not the subject of Senate Resolution No. 9 being heard by De Lima’s committee.
Told that De Lima said she wanted to establish a pattern of extrajudicial killings in Davao City leading to the present-day killings of drug suspects through Matobato’s testimony, Pimentel said De Lima had not even established the “author” of the Davao killings. He said De Lima admitted that Matobato’s testimony was an “independent topic.”
“I will advise her to file a separate resolution and she should wait for the proper action on it by the Senate. I cannot even say that it would go to the justice committee. It all depends on how the resolution will be written,” the Senate President said.
At most, Pimentel said the Davao killings could go either to the Senate blue ribbon committee or the public order committee.
Protection not in rules
As to the statements by De Lima and Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon that the justice committee could provide Matobato protective custody, Pimentel said the Senate rules did not say so.
If committee members insist on securing Matobato on the Senate premises, Pimentel said that as Senate president he had control over the chamber premises.
Trillanes, meanwhile, said Mr. Duterte should address Matobato’s allegations, noting that if someone was accused wrongly, he or she would tend to be indignant about it.