MANILA - House committee on justice chairman Reynaldo Umali on Monday denied saying that a recently concluded congressional probe found no evidence to link Senator Leila de Lima to an alleged narcotics syndicate in the New Bilibid Prison.
"I did not utter those words. I did not give any statement to any media on that particular point," Umali said
The Manila Standard on Sunday quoted Umali as saying that the investigation he led had failed to establish De Lima's liability for the proliferation of drugs inside the national penitentiary when she was still Justice secretary.
Umali dismissed the report as "a spin of some members of the media or their way of sowing intrigue on the House of Representatives."
But he also stressed that recommending the filing of charges against De Lima is not the goal of their investigation.
"That is not our job. Prosecution is an executive function, not a congressional function. Investigation and enforcement are executive functions, not legislative functions... Our role is to legislate and that is what we will focus on our committee report, he said.
Despite this, Umali was also quick to note: "That is not to say that we will not have our own findings of what facts have been established in this committee."
During the four hearings of what Umali dubbed as the "most expeditious, swiftest, productive congressional inquiry", 22 witnesses and 10 resource persons/agencies testified that De Lima and several other ranking officials allegedly condoned the prison's drug trade in exchange for millions of pesos in grease money.
Congressmen on Monday held an executive session to deliberate on the draft report of their findings.
Under House rules, the contents of the draft cannot be made public until it is approved by the committee and scheduled for a plenary session, Umali said.
De Lima has refused to participate in the congressional inquiry, which she earlier dismissed as a "sham" orchestrated by President Duterte as retaliation for her criticism of the administration's brutal war on drugs.
Drug trafficking raps were lodged last week against De Lima and seven others in connection with the Bilibid controversy.