'All roads lead to Leila de Lima,' says Umali

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 11 2016 06:00 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2016 07:32 PM

MANILA - House Committee on Justice Chairperson Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday said the witnesses in their probe into the drug ring in the national penitentiary may have varying details, but they all seem to pin Senator Leila de Lima.

"At this point in time, we have heard all of the witnesses. As you said, there are different ways to get there, but all roads lead to Senator De Lima," he said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

"That is a problem because all of these testimonies remain unrebutted, uncontroverted; so that what we will see when we do a report and all of the testimonies that would forward to the members of the committee, all of these would only say one thing, and that is that all roads to Leila de Lima," he added.

Umali noted, De Lima did not participate in the hearings, "so it remains uncontroverted."

Convicted crime kingpins told a Congressional investigation last month that they helped raise money to fund De Lima's senatorial campaign this year.

Inmate Jaybee Sebastian also testified before the House probe Tuesday that he gave millions of pesos in drug payoffs to De Lima over several occasions in 2014 and 2015.

De Lima had repeatedly asserted that the witnesses presented to the ongoing investigation were "pressured" to testify against her.

Umali insisted that these 22 witnesses, 14 of whom were inmates, were not conditioned or pressured, noting that the interpellation conducted by lawmakers would have wrung the truth out of them. 

He added, it was actually De Lima herself who "suggested" that the committee brings Sebastian into the investigation, and "at the end of his testimony, he even pointed to Leila really, the end-stage of all these things that happened in the national Bilibid."

"He was subjected, he was grilled…and he did not budge. He said the same story and he was not even referring to his notes. In terms of credibility, he ranks high," he said.

"He was straightforward. He was answering interpellations quick, without need for any notes. He was not even thinking; it was all coming from within," he added.

Umali said, De Lima's supporters, including members of the Liberal Party to which she belongs in, should have attended the hearings if they wanted to defend the senator.

"They should have said it in the committee. How come they did not participate? What the supporters of Senator Leila did was just to say that nothing is happening to the committee hearings," he said.

Umali is determined, however, to prove them wrong.

"The Committee on Justice of the 17th Congress will really do something about the criminal justice system," he said.

"To our detractors, those that are claiming that they are supporting—but they did not support Leila; I have not seen them say anything except to say that they are scripted—they had all the opportunity to interpellate," he said, pertaining to the LP members who are in the lower house as well.

Umali maintained, it is not dubious that inmates are their witnesses because naturally, they would be knowledgeable of the situation inside Bilibid.

"Who else can testify on what is happening in the Bilibid prison? You need to have personal knowledge and they are the ones who have personal knowledge of what is happening," he said.

The Committee wrapped up its inquiry Monday evening, and will not resume until De Lima's driver Ronnie Dayan is arrested.

Umali said they plan to submit a report on its probe this week and present it to the plenary the week after.