MANILA- Minority lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Tuesday criticized the congressional probe that singled out Senator Leila de Lima for her alleged links to the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as justice secretary.
In a press conference, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the House justice committee hearing veered away from its purpose to reach a legislative end, but instead became a platform to prosecute de Lima.
”The committee hearing is not the proper forum to get evidence for the prosecution of a person — it should be with the proper government agency like the Prosecutor’s Office and the Department of Justice,” Lagman said, noting that the House probe was a “comedy full of errors”.
Several witnesses, most of whom were Bilibid inmates, claimed that de Lima purportedly allowed illegal drug transactions inside the national penitentiary and received millions in drug kickbacks.
”In the first place, if the purpose is to find out whether inmates and convicts in the New Bilibid Prison are engaged in the drug transactions, that has been in the open and has been validated several times. There’s no use of having a committee investigation to investigate what has been validated,” Lagman explained.
He said the real purpose of the House probe was to tag de Lima to the Bilibid drug deals and secure a possible complaint against her.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice echoed Lagman’s remark, noting that most of the witnesses’ affidavits pinpointed de Lima’s involvement in the illegal transactions.
Erice said that the drug trade inside the national penitentiary existed even before de Lima’s term as justice secretary, but the hearings glossed over other high-ranking officials complicit to the illegal transactions even in the past administrations.
Another minority lawmaker, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said prosecuting the lady senator in public could send a “chilling effect” to the critics of the current administration.
Baguilat said it was also unnecessary to subject the public through this “circus” when the Department of Justice (DOJ) could have just filed the charges against de Lima if it has already gathered sufficient evidence for case build-up.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said de Lima may face cases for violations of the laws against illegal drugs and graft practices, simply on the basis of the witnesses’ testimonies, but documentary evidence is still lacking to make the case “air-tight”. (PNA)