Angara urges ‘mutual respect’ in Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings

MANILA — Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Tuesday urged for restraint and mutual respect among his colleagues in the conduct of Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings after a heated exchange among senators led another senator to walk out of the plenary hall Monday night.

”I call on our colleagues, myself included, to exercise restraint, calm, sobriety and mutual respect in all our dealings with each other,” Angara said.

To recall, Gordon accused de Lima of committing material concealment for allegedly withholding information that witness and self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato had been charged over a kidnap-for-ransom case in 2000.

De Lima explained that she did not remember if Matobato had mentioned the kidnap-for-ransom case during the hearing so she told them that Matobato may or may not have mentioned it.

She said that she had the detail in her notes. However, Gordon, Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, took this as material concealment.

Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, who had protective custody of Matobato, defended de Lima by reading parts of the transcript that proved that Matobato indeed mentioned it twice in his previous testimony.

Gordon also got irked when he called Matobato to testify but was later told that the witness had already left the Senate premises to seemingly “hide something” from them.

While Trillanes admitted that he allowed Matobato’s exit, de Lima said she did not know that the witness had already left.

After Gordon refused to apologize for accusing De Lima of material concealment, De Lima walked out in frustration stressing that she felt like her fellow senators were “ganging up on her.”

The fifth Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings allegedly linked to the administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign lasted for over 12 hours.

Angara said that the work of the Justice Committee should not be reduced to “a game of my witness is better than your witness.”

“Our work here should transcend our political affiliations, because what we do here today and tomorrow, though they may not echo through eternity, will certainly have lasting effect on the public and our institutions,” he added.

Angara stressed that the hearing should be an opportunity for the Senate to find ways to improve law enforcement and the justice system, and to enhance the Rule of Law.

He also noted that out that many important issues and realities were brought up during the hearing particularly about the state and the weaknesses of the country’s law enforcement agencies.

The senator meanwhile urged the government to train law enforcers properly so as to have respect for basic rights and due process.

“I do suspect that there is a great temptation to exact swift justice on the part of our law enforcers given the difficulties encountered in securing convictions against known drug pushers or criminals,” Angara said.

He pointed out that the focus should be to move our justice system in the right direction, and to restore public trust in government institutions. Azer Parrocha/