House probe on Bilibid drugs under De Lima 'reeks of harassment'
MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker deemed as "harassment" the planned House probe into drug use at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) when Senator Leila de Lima was justice secretary.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr raised questions about the "logic and propriety" of House Resolution No. 105 filed by 10 administration allies in the House, led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“This proposed investigation in fact reeks of harassment and various constitutional violations as it seeks to spend people’s money on a witch hunt, forgetting that the role of Congress is primarily to make laws, not look for criminal evidence, which is an Executive function,” Baguilat said.
He wondered aloud why Alvarez would push for such a congressional probe that is unlikely to lead to a new law – a position taken by the House leader himself in rejecting another proposed congressional inquiry.
“In the same way that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said no new legislation could come out of an investigation into the rampant extrajudicial killings that have cost hundreds of innocent lives, how can any new law come out of an investigation looking for accountability of past officials?” Baguilat asked.
In early July, Baguilat filed House Resolution No 61, seeking an investigation in aid of legislation on the rising number of drug suspect killings by police officers.
Alvarez had said such an investigation was "not needed" since Congress does not have prosecutorial powers and its findings would be forwarded to the Department of Justice to determine probable cause. Alvarez had also said then that Congress would be better off focusing on other legislation such as the proposed 2017 budget.
De Lima targettted
HR 105 calls on the concerned House committee to conduct a "comprehensive investigation on the proliferation of drug syndicates in the NBP, including the involvement and accountability of the authorities mandated to exercise control and supervision over the national penitentiary, under the leadership of then Secretary of the Department of Justice Leila M. De Lima, and such other heads of law enforcement agencies tasked with implementing law enforcement policies."
“Certainly, Congress should look into inefficiencies in government service as part of its control of the national budget, but this resolution obviously targets Senator de Lima while making the unjustified conclusion that the drug problem in NBP started during her stint in the Department of Justice,” Baguilat said.
“The congressmen who filed the resolution failed to note that it was De Lima who ordered the crackdown on various abuses in NBP,” he added, referring to the 30 surprise inspections conducted by the DOJ in the maximum security prison during De Lima's watch.
Baguilat said that a "sincere investigation" on the drug problem in Philippine jails "would try to search for its roots, not target specific officials."
"Surely my colleagues have not forgotten that as early as 2009, during the term of then President Arroyo, questionable activities have been reported at the NBP, not the least of which was the construction of houses and the conduct of various businesses by then-inmate Romeo Jalosjos,” he said.
He also questioned the timing of HR 105, filed ahead of the Senate probe into alleged extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs, to be led by De Lima as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.
“Obviously the proposed investigation, which singles out Senator De Lima, wants to discredit the ongoing investigation at the Senate on drug-related killings. It is outrageous that the leadership of the House of Representatives would allow this venerable institution to be used as a political weapon,” the lawmaker said.
Alvarez and the congressmen filed HR 105 days after Duterte accused De Lima of involvement in illegal drugs at the Bilibid, which the former justice secretary categorically denied.
On Saturday, De Lima went so far as to say that she was "willing to be shot in front of the President" if there is any "genuine" evidence that she took drug money. – Rappler.com
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