HOUSE leaders on Sunday urged beleaguered Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. to go on leave and urged Senator Leila de Lima to “face the music” to clear their names, after President Rodrigo Duterte linked them to the illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro said they found “compelling reasons” to summon De Lima to a hearing on the NBP drug trade, saying the senator had a lot of explaining to do.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Castro said Espino and De Lima could not ignore the House probes as they were implicated and tagged as conspirators in the drug trade inside the NBP.
Castro said De Lima had to be investigated because the mansion that she allegedly gave to her alleged ex-driver lover Ronnie Dayan was “a product of a crime.”
“This house, if it is proven that it is a product of a crime, will have to be probed during the investigation,” Castro said in Filipino. “Dayan, the former driver of secretary de Lima, had no money before. How come he was able to construct a house that is worth millions of pesos? You have to trace where the money came from, if it was the product of their participation in the drug operations in Bilibid.”
Castro added: “De Lima cannot evade this, because she is not just being implicated or being accused as a conspirator. These illegal activities happened under her watch as Justice secretary. There is no chance for her to escape this investigation.”
Castro said any member of the House could be expelled from the rolls if found guilty by the committee on ethics of being involved in criminal activities.
“Being a member of Congress, he or she should maintain an untainted name. Not one of us has the right to represent our constituents or even sit in Congress if the name is compromised,” Castro said.
While he is on leave, the House can designate another congressman from Pangasinan as a caretaker for Espino’s district, Castro said.
Castro urged Espino to go on leave to avoid perceptions that the beleaguered congressman would use his powers and unduly influence the planned investigation to be held by the House committee on ethics.
Alvarez, who earlier said De Lima will not be forced to appear in the House probe due to inter-parliamentary courtesy, on Sunday said there were issues and evidence that only De Lima could answer personally.
He cited as an example a video of her and Dayan, whom Duterte said was her bagman for payoffs from drug lords jailed at the NBP.
“De Lima cannot keep saying she had nothing to do with this. She has to explain that,” Alvarez said.
Castro agreed that the House would not be contented with De Lima’s denials in the press.
“The President’s revelation on the love affair [between De Lima and her driver] has established the connection because Dayan was given an authority to operate inside the NBP. So we could also look into the love affair,” Castro said.
Castro allayed fears that the House members would protect one of their own and allow Espino to go free.
It was to Espino’s benefit, he added, that he submit himself to the House investigation.
The deputy speaker said the House committee on ethics has oversight power over members that could on their own conduct an investigation into a lawmaker’s behavior as House members were expected to have an “exemplary reputation” that should serve as a good example as public officials.
Castro also said it was important to find if De Lima and Espino’s alleged links to the illegal drug trade was continuing.
Alvarez, for his part, said the Justice department was securing several witnesses who were willing to testify in the House probe versus De Lima.
The Speaker said since De Lima has filed many cases against public officials during her stint as Justice secretary, she should be the first one to understand that “that is how democracy works.”
“De Lima has to face the music,” Alvarez said.
“There is such a thing as inter-parliamentary courtesy. We will accord Senator De Lima that. We will not force her to appear. But if there is something that she has to explain, then it would be better for her to appear before the House and explain,” he said in Filipino.
Castro denied that the hearings would be a fishing expedition.
“If there is no hard evidence against Congressman Espino, then he would be cleared by the ethics committee,” he said.
Castro said the only way for De Lima to clear things up once and for all was to “waive the inter-chamber courtesy.”
On Sunday, police killed two more suspected drug dealers in Manila’s Tondo district.
Manila Police District Station 7 investigators said an undercover police officer was buying P300 worth of methamphetamines or shabu from suspects Alexander Cuyugan and an alias Jeje Reyes.
But the suspects realized what was going on and they tried to shoot it out with police.
Several sachets of shabu and two .38 caliber pistols were taken from the slain suspects.
Cuyugan’s aunt, in a report on dzBB, said that they knew the suspect was dealing drugs. He had even attempted to turn their home into a drug den.
She added that the family had tried to convince Cuyugan to surrender to the authorities, but he refused and continued his illegal activites.
Another suspect was killed in a second buy-bust operation in Manila, in the city’s Sta. Ana district.
Dagonoy Police Community Precinct commander Senior Insp. Dave Abarra said an undercover police officer attempted to buy P200 worth of shabu from a suspect known as “Buwaya” at 3 a.m.
The suspect realized that he was dealing with an undercover cop, and was killed when he allegedly tried to use his gun.
Several packets of shabu and other drug paraphernalia were recovered in the Sta. Ana operation.
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