Senators differ on admission of Mamasapano recordings

By , on January 26, 2016

Government officials questioned at the 4th public hearing on the Mamasapano clash (Photo courtesy of Sen. Grace Poe's official Facebook page).
Government officials questioned at the 4th public hearing on the Mamasapano clash
(Photo courtesy of Sen. Grace Poe’s official Facebook page).

MANILA—Senators differ in opinions on whether the mysterious audio tape where a government official and a lawmaker discussed the Mamasapano clash should be presented before the senate.

The audio recording will be presented by retired police Chief Superintendent Diosdado Valeroso in a senate probe on the clash that killed 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF 44) and 23 individuals.

Valeroso claimed that he received the audio tape via email from a civilian who refused to be named.

Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II said that the audio tape will add new information to the Mamasapano hearing.

“If it (audio tape) will be played, it will add to the new information that is supposed to be presented which warranted the resumption of this (Senate) hearing,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

The panel of Senate’s committee on public order and dangerous drugs will accept the audio tape if presented before the committee, said the committee’s chair, Sen. Grace Poe.

“The joint committees will take up the matter as a body if there is a motion by a member-senator to hear the Valeroso recording. Assuming the recording is established to be authentic, joint committees will have to discuss first the legality of airing and its admissibility,” she told The Philippine Star.

However, two senators are wary of the issue.

Sens. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said that the audio tape can be heard at the senate if the personalities in the recording won’t invoke their right to privacy.

“(It) can be played unless somebody comes out and questions the recording. I remember we discussed this during the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy when I was still a congressman,” Sen. Angara was quoted as saying in a Philippine Star interview.

Meanwhile, Sen. Pimentel wanted the issue to be discussed with caution.

“When it comes to playing it, we can play it. But will we believe it? Number, one (it involves) a lawmaker (who) is a member of a collegial body. Whatever the lawmaker may say cannot bind the entire institution. Let’s listen to it but we might be wasting our time,” he added.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said that possession of the unauthorized audio tape is “unlawful” and punishable by law.

“But let me just remind Valeroso that under Republic Act 4200, the unauthorized recording of conversations is unlawful, and may be punishable by 6 months to 1 year,” Drilon was quoted as saying in an report.

“The evidence of such a conversation is also inadmissible as evidence under the Anti- Wiretapping Act, this is the Republic Act 4200,” he added.

Wash out

Valeroso said that the audio recording showed an attempt to cover up the Mamasapano clash.

“The recording clearly establishes a deliberate attempt to cover up the Mamasapano massacre. It shows in the recording that the peace process is more important than the lives of our troops,” he was quoted as saying in an report.

“It can be said there were attempts to downplay the Mamasapano massacre. Justice was not a priority. They panicked because their priority was the peace process,” he added.