CONSIDER the probe into the drug trafficking inside the National Bilibid Prison by the justice committee of the House of Representatives an epic fail in many ways.

What, for example, were unearthed by the probe regarding the illegal drugs trade at the Munti? They talked millions of pesos in earnings by drug lords inside the jail but was the committee able to establish enough the drug trail--from the source of the drugs to the jailed drug traders to the buyers? What about the money trail aside from the ones supposedly given to Sen. Leila de Lima? Was the committee able to go deep into the operation of the illegal drug traders inside the jail to come up with measures that would ensure it will be totally stopped?

As to the effort to link de Lima to the illegal drugs trade at the Bilibid, what pieces of evidence were unearthed to support the testimonies of witnesses who were mostly high-profile convicts or arrested suspects--malleable personalities all? Even the effort to taint the image of the senator because of his relationship with his former driver and bodyguard Ronnie Dayan fell flat during the most recent hearing when the arrested Dayan was presented.

Interestingly, what sticks in the mind of the public about the House justice committee hearing, after all has been said and done, is not the drug trafficking in Bilibid but the maligning of de Lima. Which could be the intention of the probe from the beginning. And to a certain extent, the House succeeded. Some people now believe that at the very least de Lima’s character is flawed.

But consider the most recent hearing featuring Dayan.

Before the hearing got engulfed in Dayan-de Lima relationship questions, congressmen did attempt to establish de Lima’s link to confessed Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. But even that was marred by shallow questioning about Dayan’s claim he received millions of pesos from Espinosa for de Lima. Because that claim wasn’t dissected enough, nothing much was dug. Worse, it turned out the content of the affidavits of Dayan and Espinosa didn’t match.

As for the Dayan-de Lima coupling, it became a case of the House committee digging its own hole. For example, the most “damaging” testimony by Dayan and his daughter was de Lima texting an advise for Dayan not to attend the House committee hearing, a contemptible act the committee members say. It became the basis of the issuance by the committee of a show-cause order for de Lima that chances are she would not honor.

Why did I say the committee dug its own hole? In the text message, de Lima told Dayan to steer clear of the hearing because their relationship would only be feasted on (“pagiyestahan”) at the hearings. Which was what actually happened when Dayan was interrogated by the congressmen in the hearing. We all saw how some of the committee members framed their questions, lacing these with sexual innuendos and double meanings (“climax,” anyone?). In sum, what de Lima feared would happen did happen: the congressmen feasted on Dayan’s testimony.

House Speaker Vitaliano Aguirre tried to deflect the flak the committee received by re-focusing the attention on de Lima. He also tried to downplay the criticisms by either attributing politics to these or ascribing these to progressive sectors whose views he considers as dismissible. But the truth is, what the House committee is doing to de Lima is inviting a backlash. Had the committee handled the hearings competently and carefully, de Lima wouldn’t have gained sympathizers.

( twitter: @khanwens)