Alvarez to probe drug use in Bilibid during De Lima’s time

Mara Cepeda

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Alvarez to probe drug use in Bilibid during De Lima’s time
The incoming House Speaker says this should be the subject of a congressional inquiry, and not the rising number of drug suspects killed since the Duterte administration took over

MANILA, Philippines – Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez plans to file a House resolution calling for an investigation into the proliferation of drug use at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when Senator Leila de Lima was still justice secretary.

Alvarez made the statement when asked about his opposition to the resolutions of De Lima and Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr to probe the rising number of drug suspects killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Duterte’s drug war in numbers)

Kung meron man dapat imbestigahin dito, ito, in aid of legislation, let us investigate why during the term of now Senator De Lima nag-proliferate ang illegal drugs sa loob mismo ng Bilibid. Iyan ang dapat imbestigahan,” said the incoming House Speaker on Friday, July 22.  

(If there is something we should investigate in aid of legislation, let us investigate why drugs proliferated inside Bilibid during the term of now Senator De Lima. That’s what we need to investigate.)

The NBP is under the supervision of the DOJ.

Alvarez finds no need to probe the rise in killings of drug suspects since the Duterte administration assumed office, saying Congress does not have any prosecutorial powers, and extrajudicial killings are already illegal under the law.

Meanwhile, he said his own resolution calling for a congressional probe will determine if illegal activities were intentionally allowed by De Lima when she was still justice secretary.

Alam mo, pagka secretary ka tapos under your watch e ‘yung illegal activities doon sa agencies ay nagproliferate, e we have to be more strict on that (You know, when you are a secretary and illegal activities in your agencies proliferated, we have to be more strict on that),” the lawmaker argued.

During the campaign, Duterte had warned De Lima that he would have her investigated for the presence of illegal drugs in the Bilibid, which authorities led by De Lima, then justice secretary, discovered during surprise inspections of the maximum security prison.

The NBP has long been the subject of controversies due to the proliferation of drugs, violence, and corruption among the inmates and prison guards. (READ: DOJ under Duterte admin: Reform BuCor, New Bilibid Prison)

Under De Lima, the DOJ conducted over 30 inspections at the NBP under its surprise inspections initiative callled “Oplan Galugad.”

Prior to heading the DOJ, De Lima chaired the Commission on Human Rights.

De Lima and Baguilat are not the only ones alarmed by the rise in killings in drug-related police operations.

Vice President Leni Robredo and groups including the International Commission of Jurists have called for an investigation of the incidents. The ICJ has also asked Duterte to counter the “recent wave of unlawful killings” in the country.

Last month, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines denounced “vigilantism” in the country. On Thursday, De La Salle Philippines president Brother Jose Mari Jimenez slammed the spate of killings under the Duterte administration.

“While these figures are alarming in themselves, what troubles me even more as an educator is the absence of a significant public outcry against the blatant contempt for the human life and the rule of law that these extrajudicial killings represent,” Jimenez said. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.