SPEAKER Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez on Saturday said Sen. Leila de Lima’s birthday wish for peace of mind is only possible if she faces voluntarily the House probe into the drug problem inside the National Bilibid Prisons and clear her name.
“Alam n’yo, ‘yung ganyang mga panawagan (de Lima’s birthday wish for President Duterte to leave her alone) na wala kang kinalaman, ‘yan ay mapapatunayan lamang if you subject yourself to investigation. Alam n’yo naman demokrasya ito. Ngayon siguro ay naiintindihan niya (de Lima) iyun dahil noong siya ay Secretary of Justice ay marami rin siyang inimbistigahan. Kung talagang wala kang kasalanan, sila na rin ang nagsabi noon, aba’y kailangang harapin mo ‘yung problema,” Alvarez, who reiterated that the House of Representatives will observe inter-parliamentary courtesy by not forcing de Lima to attend the House probe, told reporters in an ambush interview at Leyeco II in Tunga, Leyte.
As De Lima turned 57 last Saturday, her birthday wishes were for President Duterte to leave her alone and to find a new love.
De Lima laughed off the “matrix” that President Duterte presented charting her alleged links to the drug trade in NBP, calling it “garbage.”
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu agreed with Alvarez, reiterating the appeal for De Lima to voluntarily appear before a congressional probe in the House of Representatives as resource person to shed light on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP.
“If I were Sen. De Lima, I will come here at the House of Representatives voluntarily to air my side,” said Abu, admitting that the House of Representatives cannot compel De Lima to attend the inquiry with the long-standing tradition of inter-parliamentary courtesy.
Abu said the inquiry will focus on why the illegal drugs trade inside NBP happened during the term of de Lima.
“We will zero in on the discovery of makeshift shabu laboratory at the NBP and why this had happened,” Abu asked.
Alvarez, secretary general of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said he was informed that the Department of Justice (DoJ) will present many witnesses when asked if the House has evidence of the proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP during De Lima’s stint as secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ).
“Marami nang testigo na gustong dumalo sa ating gagawing committee hearing at ito ay hawak na ng Department of Justice. Kaya kinakailangan na ipatawag natin ‘yung Secretary ng Department of Justice at kasama ‘yung mga testigo na hawak nila,” said Alvarez, adding he has no knowledge if the witnesses will point to De Lima as allegedly behind the illegal drugs trade at NBP.
While the House of Representatives has no prosecutorial power, Alvarez said De Lima has to face the music by answering the possible charges against her to be filed by the DoJ.
“Ngayon kung ano man ang ipa-file later, I’m not saying na talagang mayroon s’yang (De Lima) kinalaman dito, ngayon kung mapatunayan na mayroon nga siyang kinalaman at masasampahan siya ng kaso ng Department of Justice, kailangang sagutin ‘yun. Hindi p’wede ‘yung ngawa ka lang ng ngawa d’yan eh sabihin mo lang wala akong kinalaman d’yan. Hindi naman ganun. That’s not how democracy works,” Alvarez said.
During her stint in the DoJ it was De Lima who discovered that suspected drug lords had been living a luxurious lifestyle inside the NBP and their nefarious drug trade had remained unabated.
Earlier, Alvarez led lawmakers in filing House Resolution (HR) No. 105 to start the probe amid the bickering between the senator and President Duterte which the latter started by accusing De Lima of receiving drug payoffs from her alleged lover.
Alvarez pointed out that the NBP became a haven for drug lords that contributed to the worsening illegal drugs problem in the country.
Aside from Alvarez and Abu other authors of the resolution include House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas, Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas, Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon and Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez.
They said that the proliferation of illegal drugs operations inside the NBP was a serious blow to the anti-drug campaign of the previous government.