The chair of the House committee investigating Sen. Leila de Lima’s alleged ties to drug lords at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) has challenged the former justice secretary to appear at the next hearing to defend herself.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a former colleague of De Lima in the Liberal Party and now a member of President Duterte’s PDP-Laban party, said the junior senator should stop speaking ill of the House inquiry and accept its invitation to testify.
De Lima, a staunch critic of Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, has refused to appear at the House inquiry, questioning the credibility of its witnesses, including alleged drug lords and convicted kidnappers and murderers.
“If she really wants to clear her name and help [the] government stop the proliferation of illegal drugs not just in New Bilibid Prison but also in the entire country, then she may wish to appear in our next hearing instead of casting aspersions on the integrity of our probe through [the] media,” Umali said.
“May I ask: Does she expect angels to squeal?” he said.
The congressman presided over the two-day inquiry last week that heard several witnesses accusing De Lima of coddling drug lords still operating while serving their sentences at NBP and collecting payoffs from them and linking her to Jaybee Sebastian, an alleged drug kingpin.
Umali said nobody else but the convicts, including high-profile inmate Herbert Colanggo, would have knowledge of the clandestine drug operation in the maximum security compound of the prison.
“Sen. Leila de Lima seems to talk out of turn when she complains that convicted criminals have testified against her in the ongoing hearing of the House committee on justice investigating the illegal drug trade in NBP,” he said.
“We summoned witnesses who have firsthand knowledge of the illegal activities in prison. Who else can they be but convicted criminals themselves?” Umali said.
He also defended the committee from criticisms that the House inquiry has degenerated into a witch-hunt targeting De Lima, who has drawn the ire of Mr. Duterte for defying his warning to Congress not to investigate his war on drugs and investigating the extrajudicial killings in Davao when he was still the mayor of the city and she the head of the Commission on Human Rights.