MANILA - (UPDATED) Witnesses to the alleged proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when Senator Leila de Lima was still justice secretary will appear at an investigation of the lower chamber.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez confirmed this Thursday, adding that current Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre will be among he witnesses.
Also invited to the hearing is former National Bureau of Investigation chief Reynaldo Esmeralda, who is collating evidence on the alleged underground trade at NBP.
Alvarez said the House is now forming the panel that will conduct the investigation, which has yet to be scheduled.
He also conceded that De Lima cannot be compelled to attend the inquiry, in honor of inter-parliamentary courtesy, a tradition of both Houses of Congress not to meddle with their separate affairs.
But Alvarez emphasized that the House investigation will push through with or without De Lima.
He added that they may invite to the hearing the former driver of De Lima, whom President Duterte accused of being the senator's lover and link to the drug lords detained at NBP.
READ: De Lima alleged driver-lover dared to surface, clear name
Alvarez, however, denied that the inquiry will be a personal attack against de Lima. He added that it will not be a redundancy of the ongoing Senate investigation, which focuses on the serial killings of drug suspects amid the government's campaign against narcotics and criminality.
ANOTHER HOUSE PROBE
Makabayan, the bloc of leftist party-list groups in the Lower House, also filed a separate resolution calling for a probe into the reported killings and vigilante murders amid the war on drugs.
The resolution was filed by ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio and Rep. France L. Castro; Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi A. de Jesus and Rep. Arlene D. Brosas; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Anakapawis Rep. Ariel Casilao and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane L. Elago.
Their House Resolution 259 states that, "complaints are mounting that an alarming number of extrajudicial killings and vigilante executions are taking place and not the official police line of 'nanlaban kaya napatay.'"
The resolution lamented that "ringleaders of drug cartels, big-time drug lords, and their protectors in government have so far escaped the heightened anti-drug campaign, as only small-fry dealers and victim users have been targeted in these killing."
It cited a compilation by a major newspaper of 684 drug-related and vigilante executions, as of of August 22. Other reports estimate these killings to have reached around 1,800.
"There should be no compromise on the necessity to rid the country of crime and narcotics; an intensified campaign against illegal drugs is laudable and, in fact, long overdue… This relentless campaign must, nonetheless, be waged with the highest regard for the protection of life and respect for human rights; its methods must be conducted in such ways that will spare casualties among innocents, and accord due process to suspects," the Makabayan bloc said.
"Instituting safeguards are vital to prevent the anti-drug and anti-crime campaigns from being discredited as a result of due process and human rights violations."