THE family of slain hotelier Richard King has condemned the use of the businessman’s death in the Senate investigation of extrajudicial killings led by Senator Leila de Lima, House Deputy Minority Harry Roque said Sunday.
Roque, who used to be counsel for King, said the family “is appalled by the gall of Senator Leila de Lima in dragging the death of the Crown Regency owner in her attempt to smear the name of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
“The family of Richard King has already undergone enough trauma with his death. They are now being subjected to undue emotion distress because of the vain desire of Senator De Lima to discredit the President,” Roque added.
Roque also said the King family strongly denied the love triangle angle being peddled by De Lima’s witness, self-confessed Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato.
De Lima pursued her probe in the Senate after she was named by Duterte as being a beneficiary of drug money from the New Bilibid Prison.
“Police Supt. Leonardo Felonia was charged for King’s murder. Not once was the name of Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte ever mentioned in the course of the investigation,” Roque said.
“The story that seems to be the most popular is that a businesswoman paid â‚±20 million to have Richard King killed. She contacted Felonia to look for killers,” he added.
Roque said as a lawyer, he noted Matobato had “major inconsistencies” in his testimony, including saying he was at the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) headquarters in 2003 when the task force was actually abolished in 2001.
“This was Senator De Lima’s defense strategy: stage an offense knowing that the truth on her drug dealings will soon be revealed at the House of Representatives next week,” Roque added.
This developed as Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the inquiry must not be left to politicians whose motives could always be suspect despite their avowal of impartiality.
Also, the members of the House committee on public order and safety have decided to drop the use of the phrase “extrajudicial killing” in all its future hearings, investigations and reports, and will instead use the term “death under investigation” used by the Philippine National Police.
The committee, chaired by Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, approved the motion raised by House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia who questioned the use of the term “extrajudicial killing” in the absence of capital punishment or death penalty in the country.
“I am really curious what the definition of extrajudicial killing is because extrajudicial would mean outside of the parameters of a judicial killing. But do we have such a thing as judicial killing in the Philippines? As far as I know, the last law that was passed that imposed the death penalty by lethal injection was Republic Act 8177. But this was repealed by RA 9346. And therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines. How could we have such a thing as a judicial killing? And yet it is now so commonly used, that even in the Senate, there was an investigation conducted by the committee on justice as regards extrajudicial killing,” Garcia said.
Lagman proposed the creation of an independent fact-finding commission wholly composed of retired justices to thoroughly investigate the rising number of extrajudicial killings.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, said President Duterte’s silence on the Matobato testimony was unusual because anybody accused wrongly would be indignant.
The President’s failure to refute Matobato’s accusations gave the impression that there was truth in the hitman’s testimony, Trillanes added.
Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, however, said Duterte did not want to dignify Matobato’s lies.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday said nobody can overrule his decision to turn down protective custody for Matobato within the Senate premises.
“The Senate President is in charge of the physical premises of the Senate. That cannot be changed. My ruling was I declined to give protective custody to Matobato. I am in charge of the physical premises,” Pimentel said in an interview over radio dzBB.
He said he would not oppose it if “a good samaritan” like Trillanes would give Matobato protective custody.
“If there’s an extra house, and he (Matobato) will be allowed to live there, we will have no objection– that’s an ad hoc set-up for those who want to help,” Pimentel said.
Matobato was presented by the Senate justice committee, chaired by De Lima, as a witness in the Senate hearings on the rising number of extrajudicial killings in the government’s anti-drug campaign.
But Pimentel said Matobato’s testimony about killings during Duterte’s days as mayor had nothing to do with the extrajudicial killings in the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.