The hearing was originally scheduled for three consecutive days from Monday up until Wednesday (Oct. 3 to 5), the Senate panel had an abrupt change of temperament that resulted in the temporary suspension of inquiry.
This happened after a heated exchange among senators, with one staging a walkout and a fuss over a missing witness ensued.
The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon called for a suspension after witness and alleged former hitman of the so-called vigilante group Davao Death Squad (DDS) Edgar Matobato left the Senate premises.
Matobato has claimed that former and current members of the Davao City police were members of the DDS which took orders from then Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte.
Matobato was called to testify, however, the committee was shocked to find out from the office of Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV that he had already left.
This irked Senators Gordon and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson who claimed that the Senate has been outsmarted by a first grader. Matobato earlier claimed that he had only finished up to grade 1.
Senator Leila de Lima noted that it was unfair for the two senators to draw conclusions from Matobato’s sudden disappearance.
Gordon reprimanded De Lima for “material concealment” of findings on Matobato’s testimony related to the killing of suspected terrorist Sali Makdum, which according to Matobato happened in 2002.
Records from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), however, showed that a kidnap for ransom case was filed against Matobato as early as 2000.
To recall, it was De Lima who first presented Matobato as witness in the Sept. 15 hearing. De Lima insisted that there was no material concealment of facts done because Matobato had already mentioned it in his testimony.
She also demanded an apology but later walked out after she failed to receive one from the Committee Chairman.
Trillanes, who had protective custody of Matobato, went on to defend De Lima by reading parts of the transcript that proved that Matobato indeed mentioned it in his previous testimony.
Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao later moved to terminate the hearing stating there was no point in conducting one that had no clear direction. This move was backed by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.
But Gordon ruled a suspension until further notice as he still wants to meet with members of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Gordon maintained that the whole point of the inquiry was the truth but noted that the truth “suffers” when a senator relies on what he described as a “wishy-washy” witness.
The Senate inquiry started at around 9:00 a.m., was shortly suspended for a 3:00 p.m. Senate session, later resumed and ended at around 11:00 p.m. (PNA / Azer N. Parrucha)
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