SENATOR Leila de Lima should file a new resolution to accommodate the testimony of confessed killer Edgar Matobato against President Rodrigo Duterte, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said on Sunday.
Pimentel at the same time maintained that the testimony of Matobato during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Thursday was “off-topic,” and should have not been presented in the first place.
“I need to bring [this]to the attention of the senators who introduced the topic. I will ask them why this issue has been included and what its value is,” Pimentel said in a radio interview.
De Lima’s Senate Resolution 9 calls on the Senate justice and human rights panel to investigate, “in aid of legislation,” the recent killings of drug suspects.
Pimentel said the committee hearing should discuss only the issues mentioned in the resolution.
Matobato’s statements are a separate topic, and it would be better for de Lima to formally introduce a new topic, through a resolution, to make sure that the actions of the committee are in accordance with Senate rules, Pimentel said.
It was also unfair for the resource persons who attended the hearing on drug-related killings, to be asked to answer questions on incidents that happened between 1988 and 2013, he said.
Asked what he thought of the testimony of Matobato against the President, Pimentel said he didn’t want to comment because it was off-topic, but he noted it was easy for anyone to come up with stories.
“We have many imaginative individuals in our country, that is why we need to be careful. Even in the Senate we have to take care of the Senate resources and all our actions should be justified,” the Senate President added.
Pimentel also defended his decision to deny the request of de Lima’s committee to place Matobato under the protective custody of the Senate, noting that the witness couldn’t even present a document, photo and other evidence that could somehow back his claims.
Senator Grace Poe, in a separate interview, agreed with Pimentel, saying Matobato’s testimony should have corroborating stories from other witnesses.
With the big number of individuals supposedly killed by Matobato’s group allegedly upon orders of then Davao City mayor Duterte, it was unlikely not to find anyone who could support the testimony, Poe said.
“There should be corroborating stories because without it there will always be suspicious that it is politically motivated,” she said.
But the senator said that even if the credibility of Matobato was in question, the Senate should not deny him protective custody.
The credibility of the witness should be determined by the succeeding hearings, she said.
“Determining credibility takes a lot of cross examinations. In the meantime don’t we as least as a human beings want to guarantee his safety,” Poe said.
Granting Matobato protection doesn’t necessarily means that the Senate sees him as a valuable witness or that he is telling that truth, she said.
Anyone who appears before Senate inquiries and divulges information will always be subject to certain dangers, she pointed out.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th said he found the “silence” of President Duterte on the Matobato testimony unusual considering the story had been picked up by the international press.
If Duterte doesn’t want to dignify the supposed lies of Matobato, the President could have stated it so himself and not let his legal adviser or spokesman do the talking, Trillanes said.
“He is the President of the country. There was a direct accusation against him and the people are waiting for an explanation or a reaction from him,” Trillanes added.