House readies to probe De Lima's alleged past drug link at Bilibid

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — As the Senate began on Monday its investigation on alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects, the House of Representatives is also preparing for a separate probe on the reported proliferation of illegal drugs at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Members of the Lower House want to find out if the former Justice Secretary and now Sen. Leila De Lima — after President Rodrigo Duterte said her driver had collected drug money from the national penitentiary during her stint at the Department of Justice — had indeed allowed the proliferation of drug syndicates at the NBP.

Also read: Duterte: De Lima affair with driver 'gave rise' to NBP corruption

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said the inquiry hoped to find out how drugs were manufactured at the Bilibid and the connection of certain personalities in the illegal activity.

While Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu wanted to focus on a raid at the NBP, where a makeshift shabu laboratory, high-powered firearms, improvised weapons, and several luxury items, were found.

But Abu admitted, parliamentary courtesy dictated that they could not require De Lima to attend the inquiry.

"Hindi naman natin pwedeng obligahin siya, nasa kanya iyan kung gusto nya umattend o hindi. Courtesiya," Abu said. [We cannot oblige her, it's really up to her if she wants to attend or not. Courtesy.]

Abu and Nograles, who were both co-authors in the House resolution calling for the probe, also wanted to invite convicted drug lords currently detained at the NBP to serve as resource persons.

"Kung hindi sila pwdeng ilabas doon, we can conduct the hearings inside. Okay lang din naman iyan sa aming mga kongresista," Nograles said. [If they cannot be brought outside, then we can conduct the hearings inside. Our fellow congressmen are okay with it.]

Nograles, Abu.jpg (L-R) Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu  

The lawmakers also said they aimed to strengthen the penitentiary system by coming up with measures to ensure that national penitentiaries would be free from corruption and drugs.

But Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the proposed probe reeked of harassment.

"If it’s only focused on the drug operations in the Bilibid, for me it’s political harassment," Baguilat said.

Baguilat, who is a member of the Liberal Party where De Lima also belongs, questioned the timing of the proposed probe — which came while the senator was leading an investigation on extrajudicial killings in the upper chamber.

Baguilat also filed a House resolution calling for a similar investigation on the alleged summary executions happening under the Duterte administration.

The House leadership, however, had already opposed conducting the said hearing, arguing that there would be no pieces of legislation that would come out from such an investigation.

Also read: Dela Rosa: PNP stand vs. extrajudicial killings 'uncompromising'