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Senate won’t grant immunity for hitman

Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon said yesterday that whistleblower Edgar Matobato should not expect the Senate to grant him immunity from suit as no law allows Congress to provide immunity to witnesses in congressional probes.

Gordon said there is currently no law that allows Congress to grant special immunity to witnesses who would testify before the Senate and House of Representatives.

The senator explained that while he respects House members over their decision to grant immunity to witnesses in their investigation into the supposed proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Congress has yet to pass a law that would allow it to provide witnesses to possible charges.

“He’s not (immune). There is no law that allows the House to grant immunity,” Gordon said in an interview over ANC Headstart.

“I don’t want to quarrel with our friends at the House but I need just a little guidance, so I researched that,” the lawmaker said, a day after he presided over the newly reconstituted panel after Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s ouster.

But there are government agencies that offer immunity to vital witnesses, like the Ombudsman, he said. “(The) Ombudsman, for example, can grant a person immunity when he is a star witness and when he is not the least guilty.

You see him as a witness,” said Gordon, who also leads the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that investigates anomalies in government.

Gordon said the Senate or House can protect resource persons invited to their probes by coming up with legislation allowing both chambers to grant immunity to witnesses. “It’s simple: Make a law that says Congress has the right or privilege of allowing somebody immunity,” he said.

Gordon said he agrees with President Duterte that Matobato, self confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, can be held liable for perjury.

At this point, Gordon said, nothing is protecting Matobato from possible counter charges if the President decides to sue him. (Hannah L. Torregoza)