House justice committee: Senator De Lima tagged in illegal drug trade in national jail, but no prosecution recommended

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Despite testimony from dozens of inmates tagging Senator Leila De Lima as a "protector" of drug syndicates and a key personality in the illegal drug trade in the national jail, a house committee did not recommend her prosecution in its report Tuesday.

Read: After probe on Bilibid drug trade, House won't recommend charges vs. De Lima

The final report approved by the House of Representatives' Committee on Justice and Human Rights said "all of the evidence point to these illegal activities."

But it added that it would leave it up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Ombudsman to decide whether it to file charges against De Lima for her role in abetting illegal drugs.

However, members of the house minority bloc were dissatisfied with the report and voted against it. 

Among the important points raised in the report:

  • De Lima was accused of receiving payoffs from convicted drug lords in the New Bilibid prison, based on the inmates' testimonies at the house committee hearings.
  • De Lima was paid millions of pesos for them to be able to carry on with the illegal drug trade in Bilibid.
  • Except for high-profile drug lord Jaybee Sebastian, who tagged De Lima as "protector" of drug syndicates, all the inmates claimed that a fund-raising activity transpired within the jail from 2012 to 2015 to finance her senatorial bid in 2016.
  • The proliferation of drugs started in 2012, during the time of former Bureau of Corrections director Rafael Ragos. The drug activities escalated when Jesus Bucayu succeeded him.
  • The house committee report urged the Ombudsman and the Justice Department under Vitaliano Aguirre to investigate De Lima's role in the proliferation of drugs inside Bilibid, when she was the justice secretary.

De Lima was appointed Justice Secretary by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

She held the post until 2015, and resigned to focus on her bid for senator.

Management of Bilibid rests with the Bureau of Corrections, which is under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. Both Ragos and Bucayu were subordinates of De Lima.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on Monday it will not launch its own investigation of De Lima since this could not be based on allegations.

Read: Ombudsman will not probe De Lima's alleged links to drug trade

De Lima, who has vehemently maintained her innocence, faces two complaints in the Justice Department, and one complaint with the regional office of the Ombudsman in Tacloban, Leyte for violating the Dangerous Drugs Act.

'No closure'

Members of the House minority bloc, however, were not satisfied with the committee report and voted against its approval.

The prosecution of officials involved in the drug trade must be recommended, they said.

"The report is comprehensive. It stated everything. The only problem is there is no closure," said House minority leader Danilo Suarez.

The House minority bloc said  it will file a dissenting opinion on the committee report.

Reinstate the death penalty

The House justice committee proposed legislative measures including the reimposition of the death penalty to end the proliferation of drugs inside NBP.

It pushed for the the death penalty on drug cases. The death penalty was suspended in the Philippines in 2006.

The report called for the exceptions to the Anti-Wiretapping Law, Bank Secrecy Law, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act in situations involving inmates and drug-related cases.

It recommended that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency be given direct command over all law enforcement and intelligence agencies dealing with drug cases, and a bigger  budget to accomodate more personnel and equipment.

The report recommended and increase in the budget allocated to the Bureau of Corrections so it can upgrade its surveillance and security equipment in the national penitentiary.

It pushed for the dismantling of gangs inside the prison, the separation of inmates charged or convicted for illegal drug activities, regular drug testing, and ensuring that inmates' allowance is spent on food.

Jail superintendents should be rotated, and regular lifestyle checks conducted for officials of the Bureau of Corrections and Bilibid, it added.

CNN Philippines'Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.