Why is Aguirre allowed to question witnesses in House probe?

JUSTICE CHIEF. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II attends the House probe into the proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison on September 20, 2016.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on justice finally began its probe into the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on Tuesday, September 20, but none of the panel members asked questions to the witnesses during the first 7 hours of the hearing.

Instead, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II made the inquiries to witnesses Rodolfo Magleo, a former police chief inspector convicted for kidnapping; Herbert Colanggo, a high-profile NBP inmate convicted for kidnapping; and Jovencio Ablen Jr from the National Bureau of Investigation.

Aguirre was among the resource persons invited to the House probe.

House rules only permit committee members to ask questions during hearings. 

But Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said no rule was violated when the House committee on justice allowed Aguirre to question the witnesses.

“He is the Secretary of Justice whose office has investigated these inmates and public officers. Thus, the committee allowed him to present his investigation and the witnesses in relation to the subject matter of the resolution,” Fariñas told Rappler in a text message.

He explained that congressmen will get their chance to interpellate once Aguirre was finished presenting the witnesses before the committee.

“He is not the counsel of these witnesses but a resource person of the committee. As you might have heard, the committee members themselves will have the opportunity to examine the witnesses, and even test their credibility,” said Fariñas.

Alvarez granted immunity to Magleo, Colanggo, and Ablen and 3 other witnesses at the House inquiry, before they delivered their testimonies.

Aguirre said he has at least 30 witnesses who will prove the rampant drug use, violence, and corruption among inmates and prison guards at the NBP.

Magleo, Colanggo, and Ablen had testified before the House committee that De Lima received money from drug lords who operated in the national penitentiary, a claim that President Rodrigo Duterte made earlier. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.