House justice committee chair: Probe not about De Lima
Rosette Adel (philstar.com) - September 20, 2016 - 12:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice chair on Tuesday insisted that the House panel’s hearing is not about Sen. Leila de Lima but will only tackle the proliferation of drugs and narcotics syndicates inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

“Again, this is not about Sen. Leila De Lima, who is my sister in her sorority Lambda Rho Sigma. And this is really about the issue on the proliferation of drug syndicates in the NBP and I would just like to disabuse the mind of my sis that this is a sham hearing and this is a kangaroo committee that is being conducted here,” House Committee on Justice chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said in his opening statement.

On Sunday, De Lima said she would not attend the House probe saying the inquiry is a “sham” and “with no objective other than to demolish or destroy her, upon orders of the president.” De Lima was earlier accused by President Rodrigo Duterte of accepting bribes from the inmates inside the NBP.

WATCH: LIVE: House probe into Bilibid prison drug trade

Umali, however, said the House panel seeks to establish facts that would lead them to perform their mandate. Based on their findings, the solon said the committee would give recommendations that would result in the formation of remedial or amendatory legislation as well as a directive to the appropriate agency to issue the necessary administrative regulations as part of their oversight functions in Congress.

“I do recall having been vice chair of the Committee on Justice in the last two Congresses and that we did conduct some investigation. But the trouble is while we did some investigation, the problem persisted and probably was even aggravated so these are things now that we want to put a closure on by this committee,” Umali said.

“And we want to do it as holistically as possible covering not only the correctional aspect of the criminal justice system but the three other pillars, so that the fifth pillar — and that is the community, will regain trust and confidence in the criminal justice system,” he added.

Umali then called on the members of the House of Representative to conduct the investigation in an orderly fashion.

“I enjoin all members to observe the proper decorum as honorable gentlemen as we are. We avoid going to the issues on personality but stick to the issues at hand,” Umali stressed.

The House panel chair said the witnesses’ testimonies will help the committee determine the cause of the problem of the proliferation of drugs and drug syndicates in the national penitentiary. He said the witnesses will also identify the responsible government officials, before and even today, culpable through direct participation or gross inexcusable negligence in allowing these syndicates to proliferate while inside the maximum security compound.

In his opening statement, Umali also condemned the illegal activities happening inside the NBP, saying it makes a “complete mockery of our criminal justice system.” He stressed the convicted persons are supposed to serve their sentence as punishments and that is supposed to be the closure for the victims and their families, however, he said that is not the case.

“Unfortunately, the fact that these convicted felons are still able to continue with their illegal activities while incarcerated makes a complete mockery of our criminal justice system. It renders the justice sought by the victims and their families as mere illusions for how can justice be truly served when the perpetrators themselves are still able to commit crimes with impunity while inside the national penitentiary? This question must be answered in this inquiry and we must able get to the bottom of this issue in order to make sure we put finish to this travesty of justice,” Umali concluded.

RELATED: ‘Leila got millions from NBP drug lords’Rody: De Lima at heart of Bilibid drug matrix

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