SENATE President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon yesterday said the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights has the power to place witnesses under its own protective custody, saying that such a move does not require the approval of the Senate leadership.
Drilon, who has been Senate President four times including during the last Congress, said that it is an inherent power of every Senate committee to provide protective custody to any of its witnesses or resource persons, whose testimonies are crucial in the exercise of their functions.
“Such power cannot be vetoed by the Senate President,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
But the use of the Senate premises in providing protection to a witness, Drilon clarified, “is subject to the discretion and approval of the Senate President.”
“It is within the power and discretion of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to decide whether or not to place witnesses under protection within Senate premises,” Drilon said.
“The Senate President has the control over the premises of the Senate,” he added.
“Senate President Pimentel has the discretion whether or not to place a person inside the premises of the Senate. But as whether or not one is placed under the committee’s protective custody is within the power of the committee,” Drilon emphasized.
“The committee also has the power, and can opt, to provide protection to its witnesses even outside of the Senate,” he said.
He added that the power of every committee to grant protective custody is akin to its innate power to cite a witness in contempt and to order an arrest.
“That is a long-standing practice in the Senate,” he added.
Drilon stressed that the Senate President can not reject this power of Senate committees to issue protection for their witnesses.
He said that there have been various precedents where committees have exercised their power to protect witnesses, and the Senate leadership had always respected such actions.
Meanwhile, Drilon said that it is prudent to hold judgment on Matobato’s testimonies, citing the gravity and seriousness of his allegations.
“At this point, it is too early to assess,” Drilon said.
“We cannot say, at this point, that he was lying, but neither can we accept that his testimony is the whole truth,” said Drilon, a lawyer and former justice secretary.
“We should allow the Committee on Justice and Human Rights to continue with its hearing and come up with a report,” Drilon concluded.