MANILA – Senator Leila de Lima came to the defense of alleged former Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato after the latter’s testimony was put to the test by her colleagues on Thursday at a Senate hearing.
De Lima, who headed the justice committee until she was ousted and replaced by Senator Richard Gordon, lamented that Matobato was being subjected to a court proceeding even if the purpose of the hearing was only to “find facts.”
“We have to remember again -- just to make a point, drive home the point -- this is not a court of law. In cross-examination, the lawyer of the witness can object, but in proceedings before Senate, the lawyer is not allowed to object but simply to advise,” De Lima said.
“Therefore, may nangyayari na may misleading questions that the counsel would not be able to come to his rescue, kung merong mga ganoong questionable questions, because bawal ang lawyer na mag-object on behalf of the witness.”
[There are instances wherein misleading questions are being asked and the counsel of the witness is not able to come to his rescue because he is not allowed to raise objections.]
Gordon took offense at De Lima’s accusation that some members of the panel were asking misleading questions to the witness.
“I would normally say 'I resent that remark,' but you’re a lady, and I respect you as a lady. There is no attempt on the part of this representation and I believe people seated on this desk here of any attempt to mislead,” Gordon told De Lima.
“Please do not cast any aspersion. We are all lawyers here. I don’t want to lecture any other lawyer here. I don’t want to be lectured either.”
Gordon said, witnesses such as Matobato who make bold claims, should be prepared to be grilled by lawmakers.
The tussle between Gordon and De Lima was triggered after the new justice committee chair quizzed Matobato on his claim that he was a former member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit prior to becoming a hitman for then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
In his first appearance before the Senate last week, Matobato said he was a member of the para-military Citizen Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU). However, he said in today’s hearing that he was a member of the now-defunct Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), the old name of the CAFGU.
He clarified that he was a member of the CHDF in 1982, which became CAFGU after the Aquino government took over in 1986.
With De Lima no longer at the helm of the justice committee, senators took turns in scrutinizing the testimony of Matobato during the De Lima-head hearing last week.