Lawmaker defends convicts testifying vs De Lima
MANILA, Philippines –The chairman of the House committee on justice on Saturday, September 24, defended the convicts testifying against Senator Leila de Lima on the alleged illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali said, "Does she expect angels to squeal?"
Umali explained: "We summoned witnesses who have first-hand knowledge of the illegal activities in prison. Who else can they be but convicted criminals themselves?"
This comes as De Lima claims the Duterte administration pressured convicts to testify against her at the ongoing probe House probe on the alleged proliferation of the drug trade at the NBP when she was justice secretary.
All the convicts, as well as some other witnesses who were presented at the congressional inquiry, were granted immunity from suit for anything they may say at the hearings.
President Rodrigo Duterte said this probe shows he "was correct all along" in linking De Lima to illegal drugs.
De Lima, however, said on Tuesday, September 20, "Prisoners are being selected and isolated just to be intimidated into implicating me and to fit the President’s narrative that I am a drug lord coddler, aside from being the most evil woman in the planet."
Umali, in turn, pointed out on Saturday: "We are conducting an investigation in aid of legislation on the extent and magnitude of the illegal drug trade right within the biggest prison facility in the country. The Bureau of Corrections that oversees the NBP is under the Department of Justice, which she headed during the previous administration."
"If she really wants to clear her name and help government stop the proliferation of illegal drugs not just in the NBP but also in the entire country, then she may wish to appear in our next hearing instead of casting aspersions on the integrity of our probe through media," Umali said.
In a news briefing on Thursday, De Lima praised how Umali had conducted the congressional inquiry, so far.
"Representative Umali is rather fair in handling the proceedings," she said.
De Lima said that Umali is one of the godfathers of her eldest son, and a fraternity bother. Umali himself had divulged at the House hearing that he is a member of the Lambda Rho Beta while De Lima is a member of the Lambda Rho Sigma. – Rappler.com