THE House committee on justice, which investigated the proliferation of illegal drugs in the National Bilibid Prison, will recommend specific amendments to the Anti-Wiretapping Law and a suspension of Bank Secrecy Law against inmates and those who may have been involved in the illegal drug trade.
As a result of its series of hearings, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the committee, said the panel will also recommend the amendment of the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 to enable the government to upgrade prison facilities, professionalize the bureau and increase the salary and benefits of its personnel.
“We will finish our report within the week,” Umali said. “The operations of underworld criminals must stop,” said Umali, whose panel wrapped up its investigation on Monday after a 14-hour hearing.
“We have to amend the BuCor law and conduct lifestyle checks among prison officials and personnel in the country,” Umali said as he vowed to reopen the probe should the alleged lover and former driver-bodyguard of Senator Leila de Lima, Ronnie Dayan, appear after his panel cited him in contempt and ordered his arrest.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, and Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers called on the public to back Congress and Executive’s efforts to address the drug menace in the country.
“It is high time to amend our Anti-Wiretapping Law and Bank Secrecy Law to deal with these drug and corruption problems,” Abu said.
For his part, Villafuerte said Congress must put an end to the level of corruption that has attended the drug menace, which can best be gleaned from the special privileges that drug lords have been enjoying at the NBP’s maximum security cells, resulting from payoffs to corrupt government and prison officials.
“This House inquiry should lead to a broad range of new legislation plus other initiatives including the establishment of a more secure NBP outside Metro Manila, the complete halt to special privileges now enjoyed by drug lords and other supposedly maximum security prisoners, and the creation of a lot more drug rehabilitation centers nationwide to prevent drug abusers from ending up as hardened criminals in jail,” said Villafuerte.
Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, filed House Bill 3406 seeking to update the antiquated Anti-Wiretapping Law to help combat drug-related crimes.
He said HB No. 3406 seeks to include the wiretapping of conversations of suspected drug lords, pushers, and protectors or coddlers, among the privileged communication “that may be wiretapped by the government in order to bring suspected drug criminals to justice.”
“This measure [HB 3406] hopefully will plug a major loophole in the Anti-Wiretapping Law. If approved, this will give our law enforcers more ammunition to pin down these criminals who have destroyed the future of our youth and thereby jeopardizing the future of our nation,” Barbers said.
He also lamented during Monday’s probe that signal jammers in the NBP were allegedly being turned off to allow illegal drug transactions in exchange of P100,00 that inmates pay to the authorities.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the inquiry was intended not to prosecute any individual, including De Lima.
Alvarez said the inquiry was in aid of legislation to stop the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary.