THE Department of Justice should file a case if it has enough evidence to prove Sen. Leila de Lima’s involvement with the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
This is according to Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) Rep. Sherwin Tugna, chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, as he cautioned the DoJ against engaging in trial by publicity.
Tugna said if the DoJ delays the filing of charges it will result in trial by publicity which is not fair to the person accused and will harm the image of the government.
In the last two hearings of the committee on justice, Tugna said, grave allegations were made by the resource persons and witnesses.
“While I am fully supportive of the endeavor of the committee to shed light on the issue of blatant drug trade in the national penitentiary, I urge the public not to make premature conclusions,” Tugna said.
Tugna, a lawyer, pointed out that allegations remain allegations unless they undergo the necessary court proceedings.
He stressed however that erring officials should be sanctioned.
“I find it ironic that detained inmates can still operate their drug business in the maximum security compound of the Bilibid. If the Department of Justice believes that they have the necessary evidence to file a case against the involved officials, they should not waste time in filing a criminal case in court,” Tugna stressed.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre Jr. said there was enough evidence linking Senator De Lima to the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prisons and to file a case against her.
Aguirre said based on testimonial evidence of witnesses presented in the House of Representatives inquiry so far, “we can already have a very sufficient case.”
The DoJ said De Lima could face violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act charges.
Wider probe sought
The House Minority group wants the House probe on drugs expanded to determine if there are other government officials, aside from Sen. Leila de Lima, who are involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez has expressed disappointment over the testimony of some inmates that luxurious lifestyle was allowed inside the national penitentiary, like the holding of concerts, building of “kubol” (private quarters for VIP convicts) and other trappings.
Suarez said Congress should also look into the other jail facilities in the country to determine if inmates have similar activities and privileges tolerated by the officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
“The information revealed during the hearings creates a new imperative to address and eradicate corruption in all the correctional facilities, and investigate how the present system in these facilities allows criminal activities inside the NBP,” Suarez said.
The Minority group has expressed support for the decision of the House leadership to conduct a legislative probe into the drug trade inside the NBP on the watch of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Witnesses, mostly inmates, claimed that operations of illegal drugs were allowed inside the NBP provided that they would give De Lima monthly payola to be used for her campaign in senatorial race.