THE Palace supported the call of incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to mount an investigation of Senator Leila de Lima over the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison during her tenure as Justice secretary.
“[De Lima] should get investigated on how drug lords multiplied during her watch. Even Muntinlupa became a factory of drugs. That’s why she needs to get investigated and she should be liable for that,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in an interview over state radio dzRB.
Duterte’s allies slammed De Lima after she called for a Senate probe of extrajudicial killings committed in the first few days of the Duterte administration.
In an interview with reporters, Alvarez called out De Lima for her failure to address the illegal drugs inside National Bilibid Prison and former transportation secretaries Mar Roxas and Emilio Abaya for their failure to address woes related to the Metro Rail Transit.
Allies of the administration blamed De Lima for the proliferation of the illegal drug trade with Solicitor General Jose Calida announcing that he would investigate why De Lima was “rubbing elbows” with a convicted drug lord at the national penitentiary.
Calida showed a photo of two people, purportedly De Lima and convict Jaybee Sebastian clad in an orange prison uniform. Both were seated side by side as if attending a gathering.
De Lima categorically denied drug links and denounced “in the highest possible terms this latest demolition job” linking her to Sebastian.
“Let us investigate why during the term of now Senator De Lima, because that was the time illegal drugs proliferate inside Bilibid. That I think should be looked into,” Alvarez told reporters.
Alvarez, representative of Davao del Norte and secretary general of PDP-Laban, said he will file a resolution calling for a congressional probe on De Lima despite imminent criticisms that his action may constitute a breach in the long-standing tradition of inter-parliamentary courtesy between the two chambers of Congress.
But Alvarez maintained the House probe will not touch on “extra-judicial killings” of drug suspects as sought by critics of the Duterte administration, and will solely focus on the abundance of illegal drugs inside the national prison under De Lima’s watch.
“I will file a resolution that calls for an investigation on this issue,” Alvarez said in the light of the alleged black propaganda linking de Lima to convicted bank robber Herbert Colangco, a suspected drug lord.
During her stint in DoJ, it was De Lima who discovered that suspected drug lords have been living a luxurious lifestyle inside the NBP and their nefarious drug trade has remained unabated.
But Alvarez pointed out that the probe will not discuss the issue on allegations of summary execution or extra-judicial killing of drug suspects.
He said that specific government agencies, such as the Justice department and the National Bureau of Investigation are already conducting the probe, and that Congress’s probe on the matter would be a waste of time and effort.
“We have to remember that we investigate in aid of legislation. I cannot see how it is going to be in aid of legislation,” Alvarez earlier pointed out.
“If for example we find evidence of summary executions, what will we do in aid of legislation? There are already laws covering that. Congress can only recommend the filing of appropriate criminal charges against law enforcement personnel,” Alvarez added.
He said it would be best for the Department of Justice or the National Bureau of Investigation to look into these allegations and establish probable cause.
“If DoJ finds no probable cause, then our efforts will come to naught. So why don’t we let the DoJ, NBI or the prosecutor’s office do the investigation? Congress has other things to do. We have to pass priority bills,” Alvarez pointed out.
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