Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Thursday rejected the request of the Senate committee on justice and human rights to place self-confessed killer and witness Edgar Matobato under the protection and custody of the Senate.
In a text message to reporters, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he was informed by the office of Pimentel of the Senate leader’s decision.
“Senator Pimentel’s office has just informed us that he has denied the committee’s request for Senate custody of Mr. Edgar Matobato,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said although he does not know what will happen next, he said that they will protect Matobato.
“I dont know but I’m disappointed. Anyway hindi namin siya pababayaan,” he said in a text message to GMA News Online.
It was Trillanes who pushed for Matobato to be placed under the protective custody of the Senate.
“My motion is to place the witness under the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms and provide sanctuary within the Senate grounds until formal arrangements can be made,” he said during the hearing earlier in the day.
Sen. Leila de Lima, chairperson of the Senate committee on human rights, as well as Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senate President Pro-tempore Franklin Drilon, all agreed to Trillanes’ proposal.
Protection for Matobato
In an earlier press briefing, De Lima said she “will insist” on granting Matobato protection from the Senate.
“Security, that’s the protection from the institution. Hindi naman tama na hindi namin siya bibigyan and I will insist on that,” De Lima said.
“Dahil kanino ba siya magpapa-secure? Alangan naman sa PNP (Philippine National Police), alangan naman sa NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), may kinuwento din siya tungkol sa NBI. Kanino siya magpa-pasecure?” she added.
De Lima, however, said the Senate sergeant-at-arms would only provide security to Matobato “pending the approval of the Senate President.”
Early Thursday evening, De Lima formally wrote Pimentel requesting Senate protection for Matobato.
“To deprive our witness the benefit of the Senate’s protective custody can only mean the denial of our only chance and opportunity to get to the bottom of all the extrajudicial killings in a legal manner, instead of providing justification for any adventurist impulse provoked among our more aggressive countrymen by the nature of the witness’ testimony,” De Lima said.
“The circumstances leave no doubt, considering that it is the President that is being accused by the witness, that his security and custody cannot be left to any agency of the Executive Branch, leaving only the Senate as the only choice for sanctuary and forum for his testimony,” she added.
“We need to protect our witness to show our country that we are an institution that value our sources, wherever they may be,” De Lima said.
De Lima also told Pimentel that the committee also intends to request legislative immunity for Matobato once a judicial affidavit of his testimony is available
Matobato was previously under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program, but he left when President Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 elections.
“Alam ko na ipapabunot ako sa WPP. Alam ko na ‘yan, na papatayin ako,” he said during the hearing. — RSJ/KBK, GMA News