THE head of the House committee on justice on Sunday said he will not inhibit himself from an investigation whose subject is Senator Leila de Lima’s alleged role in the illegal drugs trade inside and outside the New Bilibid Prison when she was Justice secretary.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a former party mate of De Lima in the Liberal Party and her fraternity brother, also denied giving De Lima’s case special treatment and justified the two-month delay in holding the hearings on it.
Umali, who abandoned the Liberal Party and switched to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, said he had no choice but to proceed with the House probe considering that no less than the House leaders, led by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Deputy Speakers and House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, had principally authored the resolution seeking the inquiry on De Lima.
“I don’t find any reason for me to inhibit. Maybe if I [were] not objective, if I [were] biased, but that is not me,” Umali told dzBB radio.
He said the probe was something he had to do.
“I have always been objective in what I do,” Umali said.
“I’m chairman of the committee on justice, so I’m sure there are several forces [for and against], so I will just have to be fair to everyone and give everyone his due.”
Umali said it took him time to organize his committee and thus the delay. So far, he said, he already had 12 of the 55 members and two of the six vice chairmen to man the panel.
The hearing on De Lima’s case is slated on Sept. 20.
The first to be presented would be Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who will be asked to update the committee on the progress of his department’s investigation on the case.
Umali said De Lima had been invited to the Sept. 20 hearing, but that he did not know if De Lima had responded to the invitation since he was “in the province.”