Press Release
September 12, 2017

Sen. Leila M. de Lima's call for fair and just treatment of Senate witnesses
Dispatch from Crame No. 157

When I first stepped into the Senate more than a year ago, I was not just a neophyte lawmaker. I was a neophyte politician. But it didn't take long for me to see that the power of the legislature - as considerable as it is - could be used not just as an instrument to bring out the truth, but could also be weaponized, ironically and dismayingly, in order to bury it.

I saw this when, in contrast with the alacrity with which the House of Representatives granted immunity to convicted felons, and how readily the Senate granted protection to Kerwin Espinosa (and granted WPP coverage by the DOJ), the same Senate refused to extend protection to Edgar Matobato.

I saw this when, in contrast to how eagerly some Senators sought to punish witnesses for contempt for not giving the answers that the Senators wanted to hear, the same Senators gutlessly allowed the President's son and son-in-law to disrespect a Senator and the proceedings by acting and answering contemptuously. "No way!", one of them sneeringly replied. That is on record. Yet not a one of my colleagues had the spine to reprimand the witness.

But the recent the revelation by Senator Lacson that Mark Taguba's change of heart came at the heels of his removal from Senate's protective custody is a different level of betrayal of the Senate as an institution, of its mandate under the Constitution, and of its duty to the people.

As despicable as denying protective custody is, the act of withdrawing it after the witness had given information against a member of the First Family is a grave and shocking act of turning the Senate's powers and prerogatives into weapons of oppression, tyranny and impunity. It is not only an overt threat against Mr. Taguba. It is, in fact, an unmistakable act of intimidation directed at the entire Filipino people: if you cross the Duterte Royal Family, there is no protection available to you. Not in the PNP, not in the DOJ, and not even in the Senate. You seek truth at your own peril.

This I have come to learn the hard way. But I object, with every fiber of my being, to have this threat be directed at potential witnesses. Because the real victim here is not just public servants like me, or potential witnesses, but the Filipino people.

I call on my colleagues to find it in themselves to use the Senate's power, not to protect the President and his family, but to truly, honestly and sincerely find out the truth: who are the people behind this large shipment of shabu from China? No amount of intelligence funds and posturing will be enough to get to the bottom of this mystery if the Senate grants and withholds protection according to the whims of the President.

Mahiya naman tayo sa Sambayanang Pilipino...

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