House justice panel OKs Bilibid drug trade report; no raps vs De Lima
The House of Representatives justice committee on Tuesday approved the committee panel report on its investigation into the alleged drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) implicating Senator Leila De Lima.
The committee by viva voce (voice voting) approved the committee report on the investigation in aid of legislation.
In an interview before the start of the vote, committee chairperson Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali is mum on whether or not De Lima was recommended to be charged with violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act over allegations she raised campaign funds through the drug trade inside the NBP.
Umali said the House rules prohibit lawmakers from revealing details about the report before the rules committee was able to calendar the report to the floor for plenary approval.
But Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, a member of the minority bloc, voted against the report because it did not include recommendations of charges against De Lima and other officials who allegedly allowed the proliferation of drugs in the Bilibid.
“Our point of objection is on the identification of definitive culpability of those accountable officers involved in the proliferation of drugs in the Bilibid.. We find it conspicuously absent in the recommendations,” Garbin said.
“The position of the minority is to necessarily identify all those officials and personalities involved in the proliferation of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison, and a recommendation must be arrived on the prosecution of those accountable officers, as well as personalities involved in the drug proliferation,” he added.
Garbin said the minority would file a dissenting opinion to the vote. Only Garbin voted against the vote.
In an ambush interview, Minority Floor Leader Quezon Rep. Danny Suarez said the minority would prepare its own report and submit it to the plenary for approval on Wednesday.
“We agree most of the findings are correct. What we don’t agree is there was no recommendation for prosecution,” Suarez said.
“The report is comprehensive. It stated everything, the only problem is there is no closure. Parang nag-conduct kami ng ilang hearing na inabot ng (We conducted a number of hearings which extended until) 11 in the evening,” he added.
Suarez said the minority lawmakers would meet and pitch ideas regarding the recommendation of possible plunder, graft and violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Drugs Act charges against De Lima and other Bilibid officials who allegedly benefited from the drug trade.
“What we’ll do tomorrow is before the minority, we’ll come up with a minority report on what we feel should be the recommendation based on the findings of all those marathon hearings that we did,” Suarez said.
“We’ll look at the gravity of the contents. I have a lot of lawyers in the minority, anyway. We’ll bunch up all our ideas and tomorrow we’ll include that in our minority report,” he added.
In a press briefing earlier in the day, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman hit the committee for allowing itself to be used as a kangaroo court for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to present its witnesses against De Lima.
“The DOJ is the proper forum for such prosecutorial investigations. It’s so unfortunate that the committee on justice allowed itself to be used as a vehicle for a shame and vilification campaign,” Lagman said.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said the inmates at the Bilibid who testified against De Lima were all polluted witnesses, noting that five of the 12 DOJ witnesses earlier sought executive clemency during the previous administration.
Lagman said the witnesses’ testimonies were their “[tickets] to freedom.”
“I still maintained that these are polluted witnesses. They are forced to testify… Kung magsinungaling sila, hindi na sila natatakot makulong kasi kulong na sila (They could lie and not be afraid to be jailed because they are already in prison). Out of the 12 inmates, five of them have pending applications for pardon or executive clemency,” Alejano said.
“Itong (This) application for clemency will be enhanced by their cooperation in giving their testimonies. Ito ay posibleng (This is a possible) ticket to freedom,” Lagman said. RAM
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