MANILA — Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon on Tuesday refused to apologize to fellow Senator Leila de Lima, who demanded an apology after he had accused her of committing “material concealment” in a previous Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings.
“Did I do anything wrong? She should apologize to me because I was liberal with her,” Gordon said, noting that he even allowed senators to give de Lima more time than what was allotted to her to question the witnesses.
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. He said that de Lima and Trillanes seemed to be “hiding 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.
De Lima noted that it was Trillanes’ judgment to send Matobato off because it was late evening and they needed to extricate Matobato out since it was no longer safe, especially while the people he identified as alleged DDS members — former and current Davao City police personnel — were there.
“They should say sorry to the Senate for unparliamentary conduct,” Gordon said, claiming that de Lima and Trillanes tried to hide Matobato to avoid his being tagged as an unreliable witness.
“There’s a long history of trickery in this country. They didn’t want to show Matobato because they are caught lying. He is not believable anymore,” he added.
Gordon stressed that de Lima and Trillanes should first present corroborating evidence that the witnesses were indeed involved in murder.
“Matobato is fooling us. I’m a litigator, I’m a lawyer. I’m not stupid. Maybe they think the rest of the people are stupid, maybe they feel they can fool people all the time but not us, not the Senate,” Gordon said.
“I am already 71 years old, I have no ambitions except to serve my country. I’m not after a headline. Maybe Trillanes is,” he added.
In a separate interview, Trillanes said that Gordon was too “proud” to admit about forgetting that Matobato previously mentioned his kidnap-for-ransom case.
“He (Gordon) should be man enough to admit that he made a mistake. He falsely accused a member of the committee, and now that we show him the truth, he lets his pride take over. His bias shows,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said that he also found it suspicious how Gordon sought for Matobato in the hearing past 8:30 p.m. when he was no longer in the Senate premises when he earlier suggested as early as 9:00 a.m. to have Matobato face the other witnesses.
He claimed that Gordon could have assumed Matobato would not be able to recognize the alleged DDS members but when the DDS members admitted that they knew Matobato, he had to have a change in plans.
“I was asking them (senators) to have Matobato face the other witnesses but they didn’t want to do it. That’s why they asked the policemen to attend because they were confident that Matobato would not recognize them. When the police said they knew (him), they needed to change plan. So they didn’t let them face each other,” Trillanes said.
Sixteen out of more than 20 police officers from Davao City allegedly linked to the DDS were present at the Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings on Monday.
The Davao City cops, who were previously members of the city’s Heinous Crimes Division, were cited by Matobato in a previous hearing as responsible for unresolved killings in the city.
Matobato claimed that these Davao City cops took orders from then mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte. Azer Parrocha and Maria Katrina Hallare/PNA-northboundasia.com