Senate panel to review Trillanes' motion for Duterte probe
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of President Rodrigo Duterte's critics, sought a Senate inquiry into the alleged "direct" involvement of Duterte in the Davao Death Squad (DDS) killings.
Trillanes delivered a privilege speech on Monday, September 26, to defend the credibility of witness Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the DDS, who accused Duterte of ordering killings when he was Davao City mayor.
"I now move that this privilege speech be referred to the committee on accountability of public officers and investigations so that an inquiry be conducted to look into the alleged direct involvement of then mayor and now President Duterte and other public officials in more than a thousand killings in Davao City through the Davao Death Squad," Trillanes said.
The senator tagged Duterte as the "mastermind" of the killings and a "mass murderer."
But several allies of Duterte – senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Richard Gordon, and Juan Miguel Zubiri – opposed Trillanes, saying the committee and the chamber are not the proper venues to investigate the President.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III wanted a viva voce vote on whether to approve or reject Trillanes' motion.
But Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III counter-proposed that it be referred to his committee on rules for "proper review and study."
Asked about this, Trillanes initially said it seems the motion is practically shelved already.
"Parang ganun na nga (Seems like it)," he said in a text message.
But in a separate interview with reporters, Trillanes said the motion is "still there."
"The motion is not dead technically. It's going to be studied by the [committee on] rules," he added.
Impeachment, not Senate probe
Cayetano said the House of Representatives, which is presently composed of Duterte allies, and not the Senate is the proper venue, citing the 1987 Constitution.
Zubiri echoed the same sentiment, as he said there is a "different mechanism" for investigating the President and other officials such as Supreme Court justices and constitutional commission officers.
"Iba po trato sa Pangulo (There is different treatment for the President). Proper way is to go to the House of Representatives for whatever purpose, they can initiate impeachment," Zubiri explained.
He added that the Senate should not be involved as the senators might one day serve as judges in an impeachment court. He urged his colleagues to start working on more important issues instead.
"We will prejudge the case, a possible impeachment case. Ang dami nating problema, dami kailangan gawin – 'yung budget 'di pa tapos (We have many problems, we have many things to do – the budget is not yet finished), we should confirm members of Cabinet so they can continue doing their jobs. Maybe we can bow down to other matters of business," Zubiri said.
Gordon, the chairman of the blue ribbon committee, rejected the motion outright, even before it was referred to the rules committee. He also hit Trillanes for calling the President a "mass murderer," saying it is "uncalled for" and is only reserved for the likes of Cambodia's Pol Pot, Russia's Joseph Stalin, and Germany's Adolf Hitler.
The motion, Gordon added, is "premature" and just a "waste of taxpayers' money."
"That's premature. What will I do? If I investigate it, he won't appear before me. That's not allowed.There is a process. You do not investigate the President. The only way you can investigate the President is through impeachment," Gordon said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"What would it do if I say he's guilty sige, saan ko dadalhin? 'Di babalik din ako sa Congress (then where will I bring the case? I would have to go back to Congress). They're not gonna start anything until I have something there. So it's a waste of taxpayers' money."
'But Senate probed Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino'
Trillanes, for his part, disputed this claim, citing past Senate investigations on former presidents. He maintained the blue ribbon committee is the most appropriate body to handle the matter.
For the senator, impeachment is not the only way to probe a sitting president.
"Naalala natin inimbestigahan dati si President Erap, si GMA, tapos si President Aquino, 'yung sa DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), 'yung Mamasapano. Gano'n lang 'yun. This is a system of checks and balances. 'Wag sila matakot. That’s an opportunity for them i-clear ang kanilang mga pangalan," he said.
(If you recall, there were investigations on President Erap, on GMA, then President Aquino regarding DAP and Mamasapano. It'll just be like that. This is a system of checks and balances. They have nothing to fear. That's an opportunity for them to clear their name.)
Asked what his end goal is, Trillanes said he only wants Duterte to be held accountable for his actions. He said he has not gone as far as thinking of impeachment just yet.
"The end goal is to make sure na walang nalabag na batas at walang public official na kumbaga ay out there na hindi sila held into account," the senator said.
(The end goal is to make sure that there is no law violated and there is no public official out there that is not held accountable.) – Rappler.com