MANILA – The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights has effectively dismissed confessed killer Edgar Matobato as witness in the ongoing congressional inquiry on alleged extra-judicial killings in Davao City decades ago, effectively throwing the man in limbo.
The panel chairman, Senator Richard Gordon, also claimed Tuesday that “most” members of the Senate committee wanted to raise the issue of ” unparliamentary acts” of Senators Leila De Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV before the Ethics panel for proper disposition.
Trillanes quickly described Gordon’s move to dismiss Matobato as a “convenient way of covering up the serious accusations against President Duterte,” whom Matobato had linked to the DDS during his time as mayor of Davao City.
“As for the ethics case, that’s just his way of deflecting from his monumental blunder of falsely accusing Senator de Lima of concealing information,” Trillanes said.
The two senators, who had taken up the cudgels for Matobato, had engaged Gordon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a heated argument late Monday night, near the end of a joint committee hearing into EJKs – both from the current drug war and the supposed Davao Death Squad decades ago, where Matobato claimed to be a member.
Though the panel will discharge Matobato, Gordon said they will pursue the investigation into EJKs – either perpetuated by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) or the unknown forces behind the current spate of killings that have marred the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
In fact, Gordon said he had summoned a priest who wrote about DDS to be a resource person or witness in the subsequent hearing set next week.
“We will pursue the probe on DDS [if we can get witnesses. In fact, I will invite a priest who wrote on DDS],” Gordon said.
But not Matobato, Gordon said. “Because he is a damaged witness, kahit ilagay mo yan sa kaso, hindi na eh, sira na eh, sunog na sunog na eh.”
“Matobato’s testimony has no probative value because he totally destroyed his credibility,” Gordon said.
He added that the panel will study whether or not to strike out from the record Matobato’s testimony as he starts preparing to draft the committee report.
“[If you look at the] affidavit [of] Matobato, [that’s where you’ll find the] material concealment,” Gordon said, adding that Matobato told the Senate hearing the Davao policemen killed Sali Makhdum (referring to Medina, Lascañas and Laud) but in the NBI he tagged other people, Gordon said.
He, Lacson and other senators at Monday’s hearing were aghast on learning late Monday that Matobato still had a pending kidnap-for-ransom case at the Samal prosecutor’s office, way back in 2000, or two years before Makhdum was supposedly killed by Matobato and the Davao policemen.
Aside from Gordon, Senators Grace Poe, Panfilo Lacson, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III attended the caucus of the Justice panel. Both De Lima and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did not attend the caucus.
Meanwhile, Gordon said he will personally raise the alleged unparliamentary acts of De Lima and Trillanes before the Senate Committee on Ethics. Both face censure, reprimand and/or expulsion if found guilty.
“There are unparliamentary acts there: unparliamentary remarks made outside of the session hall, made within the session hall, walking out of the committee, saying bad things about the committee — [those are] all unparliamentary,” Gordon said.
Towards the end of Monday’s 13-hour hearing, Gordon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson (chairman of the other investigating committee, on Public order), accused De Lima of “material concealment” of facts before the panel regarding the kidnap-for-ransom case filed against Matobato.
“I [will] probably refer this to the Senate Committee on Rules and Ethics Committee for disposition,” he added.
Gordon said he cannot let Monday’s shouting match and walkout by De Lima pass because everyone had worked so hard just to know the truth about the EJK allegations, and craft legislation to prevent a repeat of such killings in the future and improve the criminal justice system.
“I cannot let it pass because pinaghirapan namin ‘yan [we worked so hard on this investigation],” Gordon said.
Another point, he added, is that this controversy has put the Senate’s reputation at risk, and therefore everyone must find a just and sensible way to resolve it.
“You invite all these people, you make them wait, [and then someone] walks out [and there are] shenanigans: the result is that the reputation of the Senate will be damaged for inviting these people,” Gordon said.
For the hearing last Monday (Oct. 3), PNP officials led by Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa were also invited, besides the policemen from Davao and other alleged DDS members. Dela Rosa and the other PNP officers were asked to shed light on the latest data from the currenty war on drugs, and sat through nearly 14 hours of hearing.
Trillanes’ ‘first bad act’
Gordon recalled the “first bad act” of Trillanes was in coming to the hearing and attacking the panel for being biased.
Gordon said he should have delivered a privilege speech on the unparliamentary acts of de Lima and Trillanes, but decided against it because both had left the session hall.
“Hindi ako titira ng kalaban ko kapag wala sila [I will not attack anyone who is not here],” Gordon said
Nonetheless, Trillanes said in a separate comment to media that dismissing Matobato is a very convenient way of covering up the serious accusations against President Duterte, whom Matobato had linked to the DDS during his time as mayor of Davao City.
“As for the ethics case, that’s just his way of deflecting from his monumental blunder of falsely accusing Senator de Lima of concealing information when, based on the transcript, it was actually revealed directly to him by Matobato during one of the hearings,” Trillanes said in a text message.