We witnessed the latest circus in the Senate earlier this week in the hearing of the Senate Justice Committee headed by Senator Leila De Lima.
It was, for me a sad day for the Senate, for this august chamber used to beÂ the venue for substantive inquiries, credible exposes, where procedures to ensure upholding the rights of everyone are strictly followed.
Today, a witness can be presented a Senate hearing bringing nothing but his bare accusations.
No supporting evidence.
Just plain accusations.
The Senate Justice Committeeâ€™s chairwoman herself was the handler of a supposed explosive witness, only to be deflated like a balloon full of holes when cross examined.
The witness, a certain Matobato rattled off his exploits as a supposed member of the Davao Death Squad by accusing President Duterte of directly ordering killings.
As a trial practitioner, such a witness will not be able to come through as a credible witness.
There are just too many inconsistencies in his testimony, that he will only self destruct on the stand.
In any event, what bothered us the most was the way the chairwoman handled the committee hearing.
She brought her own witness.
She tried to suppress the cross examination conducted by other senators.
Worse, the neophyte senator obviously was not familiar with the procedure in holding a hearing.
First the witness did not have a sworn statement.
He just sat in the witness stand, without any affidavit.
After the hearing the I heard Senator De Lima said the witness will later execute a judicial affidavit.
Now how can this be.
The judicial affidavit will have to be executed after the witness has testified?
Apparently De Lima, a lawyer, Â does not know the purpose of a judicial affidavit.
Any fresh law practitioner will tell you a judicial affidavit is prepared before a witness testifies, and even given to other parties to enable them to prepare cross or clarificatory questions.
And I wonder how the belated judicial affidavit will read like.
It will be sanitized to remove the inconsistencies?
How will this belated judicial affidavit compare with the transcript of stenographic notes of his testimony?
Another remarkable blunder of the chairwoman De Lima was to convene the committee into executive session when the witness was asked how he was brought to the Senate.
According to De Lima, the witness was holding off his answers owing to the sensitive nature of the testimony.
To expose the President of the Republic of masterminding killings can be openly testified about for the entire nation to hear.
But to simply ask the witness how he arrived at the Senate is so sensitive that it requires an executive session.
Can the chairwoman explain that?
Besides if we refer to the constitution, it is only when the security of the state or when public interest requires that an executive session may be conducted.
Is determining how a witness was able to come to the senate a matter that involves the security of the state?
The greatest blunder of the chairwoman De Lima was when she acted as lawyer ofÂ the witness, instead of presiding over the committee.
A committee chair must always beÂ neutral as he or she will conduct the flow of the investigation to make it a credible one..
What I heard was a committee chair actively coaching and substituting the answer of the witness she brought to the hearing.
It was a sad day indeed, for the Senate. (By Atty. Jay I. Dejaresco)