House panel allows Aguirre to question witnesses in drug probe

Kimberly Jane Tan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2016 02:59 PM

MANILA - Breaking from convention, congressmen on Tuesday allowed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to question witnesses in its investigation on allegations convicted crime lords ran drug syndicates from behind bars.

Aguirre presented to the House committee on justice convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo and former anti-narcotics policeman Rodolfo Magleo.

"Ang proseso po natin nito kayo ang magcoconduct ng direct [The process here is that you will be conducting the direct questioning]," Oriental Mindoro Rep. and committee chairman Reynaldo Umali told Aguirre before the presentation of the first witness.

To which, Aguirre responded: "Ako po ang magcoconduct ng direct sapagkat yun ang utos ng committee sa akin kagabi [I will be conducting the direct questioning because that is the order of the committee to me last night]."

Section 137 of the 2010-2013 House rules indicate that "resource persons and/or technical assistants may be invited to attend the proceedings, and upon permission of the chairperson, may directly answer questions and inquiries propounded by members."

Aguirre was allowed to question witnesses on the basis of their affidavits. Congressmen will be allowed to ask questions after.

One lawmaker asked whether it was proper to have all the witnesses presented at the same time, allowing them to hear each other's testimony.

"Hindi naman tayo mahigpit [We're not that strict]," Umali responded.

Lawmakers opened the investigation on Tuesday after President Rodrigo Duterte linked De Lima to illegal drug payoffs. De Lima snubbed the hearing, calling it a sham.

But Umali denied this, saying the hearing was not about the former justice secretary