MANILA, Philippines – Senators Leila De Lima and Antonio Trillanes said on Monday, October 3, there was no attempt to conceal the kidnapping case against witness Edgar Matobato before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The issue prompted a heated debate among senators on the floor, with Senators Richard Gordon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, and Manny Pacquiao ganging up on De Lima for allegedly keeping the information from the chamber. (READ: Senators gang up on De Lima over Matobato kidnap case)
Gordon, chairman of the committee, said De Lima has committed “material concealment” after supposedly failing to inform the public of the kidnapping for ransom case filed by the wife of Sali Makdum, alleged international terrorist, against Matobato.
De Lima, for her part, cried foul over the accusation.
“So where is the material concealment? It pains me to be accused of material concealment because it was mentioned. There's nothing to disclose to the body after the witness had disclosed it,” she said.
"I will let you have a meltdown and have the floor," Gordon told De Lima.
De Lima asked for an apology from Gordon but the latter refused. In the end, De Lima walked out of the hearing.
Transcripts say otherwise?
Citing page 166 of the transcript, De Lima said Matobato himself mentioned the information before the chamber during the September 15 hearing. (READ: Matobato admitted kidnap case vs him – Senate transcript)
Matobato, when asked if he would stand by his claim that he killed Sali Makdum, said:
“Opo, ma’am kasi pinaylan ako ng kaso, ma’am ng kidnapping kang Sali Makdum. Hindi ko sila tinuro. Parang inako ko rin. Pinaylan ako sa NBI,” Matobato said.
(Yes, ma'am because they filed a case against me, of the kidnapping of Sali Makdum. I didn't point to them. I took it upon myself. The NBI filed a case against me.)
De Lima then clarified what the witness said. Matobato confirmed there was indeed a case filed against him.
“Oo, ako ang kinasuhan ma’am. Opo ma’am.” (Yes, I'm the one they filed a case against. Yes, ma'am.)
A week after, transcripts showed that Matobato once again mentioned the kidnapping case filed against him.
On September 22, Cayetano asked Matobato about Sali Makdum: “Paano, sir, ngayon, dine-deny na terrorist si Makdum? Wala man record. There’s no record that he’s a terrorist or wanted.”
Matobato, in response, said: “Kaya nga, sir, pinaylan ako ng kidnapping, sir, na-dismiss iyan, sir. Kasi si Sali Makdum, backdoor. Backdoor iyan, sir, si Sali Makdum. Walang record sa embassy, sir. Walang record.”
Gordon said it is still “material concealment” for a senator to keep from the chamber the details of a case filed against the witness.
“But for a senator to conceal that she has record na nafile yung kaso, that’s still the same to me,” Gordon told Rappler after the 12-hour hearing.
Trillanes, for his part, came to the defense of De Lima. Trillanes drew the ire of Gordon on Monday night for allowing Matobato to leave the Senate premises when he has not asked the committee’s permission.
Gordon said it was questionable that Matobato left the chamber when he was about to face the Davao policemen he linked to the Davao Death Squad.
The committee suspended the hearing and is set to hold a caucus on Tuesday, October 4, to discuss whether or not they would still continue with the investigation into the extrajudicial killings – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org