I am perplexed, disturbed, and extremely disappointed with the Senate President’s refusal to grant protective custody to Edgar Matobato. The grant of protective custody to witnesses may not be in the Rules, but this is a long-standing practice, probably in any legislative body in the world, because it is an ancillary and inherent power of the legislature to support its mandate of conducting inquiries in aid of legislation. The grant of protective custody, like the power to cite in contempt, is one of the ancillary powers inherent in the Senate Committees conducting legislative inquiries.
In light of this, I am withdrawing the Committee’s request asking the Senate President to approve the Committee recommendation for the grant of protective custody to Matobato. Instead, I will bring the issue to the Committee, with the end in view of asserting our inherent and ancillary power as a Senate Committee conducting an inquiry in aid of legislation to grant the witness protective custody of the Senate. The grant of protective custody, like the power to cite in contempt, is a Senate power, not a prerogative of the Senate President. It is my submission that the Committee on Justice and Human Rights as a standing committee of the Senate has the authority to grant protective custody to a witness testifying before it, on behalf of the Senate as a whole.
The protection of Senate witnesses is paramount, especially those who have endangered and are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to shed light on criminal wrongdoings upon the invitation of the Senate. This is undertaken as a matter of course, since it is the automatic obligation of the Senate to protect witnesses who have entrusted their security to this body in exchange for the vital information only they are able to share in aid of legislation. We are even hard put in searching for a precedent where protective custody was refused to a witness who needed it. We cannot now pretend that the explosive testimony of Edgar Matobato fails to meet precedents on previous grants of protection.
Edgar Matobato has provided the Senate vital information that sheds light on the whole complexity of the President’s War on Drugs, especially on the similarity of the strategy adopted by the DDS and that of the vigilantes that now roam the whole country. The relevance of his testimony to the inquiry on extra-judicial killings is self-evident. Regardless of the personalities involved, his testimony merely shows that what is transpiring now in this country has happened before in Davao City. His testimony raises the legitimate question of whether the DDS has anything to do or is in fact involved in the nationwide War on Drugs, at least insofar as the aspect of extra-judicial and vigilante killings are concerned.
No other government agency or office is in a position to provide protective custody to this witness. The circumstances leave no doubt, considering that it is the President who is being accused by the witness, that his security and custody cannot be left to any agency of the Executive Branch, leaving the Senate as his only choice for sanctuary. It is therefore highly irregular and incomprehensible for the Senate to be unable to perform this obligation to a witness whom it has invited on the basis of the vital information only he can provide to an inquiry conducted in aid of legislation.