Sen. Sotto on senators’ feud: It’s easier to just talk it out

MANILA — Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Wednesday it would be easier if Senators Leila de Lima and Richard “Dick” Gordon sorted out their differences by talking it out.

Sotto made the remark after his two colleagues had disagreed over certain issues, including the sudden exit of witness and self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato from the Senate premises during Monday’s inquiry into extrajudicial killings.

Sotto chairs the Senate committee on ethics and privileges.

“There were instances in the past when a senator was offended by another senator and complained on the floor, Committee on Ethics or Senate president. It can be talked about,” Sotto said.

To recall, Gordon got annoyed at de Lima 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 Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV seemed to be “hiding something” from the Senate.

While Trillanes, who had protective custody of Matobato, 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.

Gordon, Chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, also accused de Lima of committing “material concealment” for allegedly withholding information that 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 but had the detail in her notes. However, Gordon took this as material concealment.

Trillanes defended de Lima by reading parts of the transcript that proved that Matobato indeed mentioned it twice in his previous testimony.

De Lima demanded an apology from Gordon for accusing her of material concealment while Gordon wanted de Lima to say sorry to the Senate for “unparliamenteray conduct” after she had walked out of the hearing.

Sotto said Section 93 of the Senate Rules defines unparliamentary conduct as acts or language that offend a senator or a public institution.

He acknowledged that Gordon did mention about his plans to either file an ethics complaint against de Lima for unparliamentary conduct or bring it to the Senate floor so that the plenary could discuss it. If Gordon’s ethics complaint pushes through, this would be the third ethics complaint filed against de Lima.

He however said that he was “not sure” if he got Gordon’s conversation with him right and has yet to clarify this.

The senator also said that he would have to look at the context on what really transpired during the inquiry to determine how to avoid making a big issue out of the feud.

In a separate interview, Gordon said he was open to talks with de Lima. De Lima has not yet issued a statement on the issue. Azer Parrocha/