MANILA—Senator Leila de Lima, Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, on Friday withdrew her request asking Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to approve the committee’s recommendation to grant alleged ex-Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato with Senate protective custody.
This after Pimentel’s office announced that he has denied the informal request of Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, who himself requested that the witness be placed under legislative immunity in a hearing on Thursday.
De Lima before withdrawing the request said that she would ask a lawyer to handle the taking of Matobato’s accounts and convert it into a judicial affidavit for future proceedings before the request for custody is formalized.
Instead, she said that she would bring the issue to the Committee, with the goal of asserting its power as a Senate Committee conducting an inquiry in aid of legislation to grant the witness protective custody.
“I am perplexed, disturbed, and extremely disappointed with the Senate President’s refusal to grant protective custody to Edgar Matobato,” De Lima said.
The neophyte senator reiterated that the grant of protective custody to witnesses may not be in the Senate Rules, but noted that it is a long-standing practice, probably in aid of legislation.
She insisted that the grant of custody is a Senate power and not a “prerogative of the Senate President.”
“It is my submission that the Committee on Justice and Human Rights as a standing committee of the Senate has the authority to grant protective custody to a witness testifying before it, on behalf of the Senate as a whole,” she explained.
The former justice secretary further said that the protection of Senate witnesses is paramount, especially those endangered for shedding light on crimes.
She pointed out that Matobato has provided the Senate information that sheds light on the complexity of the current anti-drug campaign, especially on the similarity of the DDS and that of the vigilante killers.
“…His testimony merely shows that what is transpiring now in this country has happened before in Davao City,” De Lima sad.
“His testimony raises the legitimate question of whether the DDS has anything to do or is in fact involved in the nationwide War on Drugs, at least insofar as the aspect of extra-judicial and vigilante killings are concerned,” she added.