De Lima dismayed over court’s dismissal of motion to join Senate ‘hybrid’ sessions

Robie de Guzman   •   June 19, 2020   •   275

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Friday expressed dismay over the decision of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 to junk her motion seeking to join the “hybrid” Senate sessions and hearing while in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame for drug-related charges.

“In denying my motion, the trial court may have failed to see what the Supreme Court has doctrinally acknowledged in the cases of Jalosjos and Trillanes that it is possible for a person deprived of liberty (PDL) to still legally pursue a profession or legitimately perform the functions of a public office as long as he or she can do it within the confines of his or detention cell,” De Lima said in a statement.

“As the Senate rules now allow for teleconferencing as a mode of participating in sessions and hearings in crisis or emergency situations or pandemic, I can easily do it if I will be provided with a laptop and internet connection, without need for me to get out of the PNP Custodial Center,” she added.

It can be recalled that on May 4, the Senate amended its rules to allow both physical and online attendance to legislative proceedings in a bid to prevent the possible transmission of novel coronavirus disease among its members and employees.

However, De Lima was still not allowed to participate in “virtual” sessions as Senate leadership claimed that she is “not under the chamber’s jurisdiction.”

The opposition senator maintained that disallowing her from taking part in online sessions, hearings, and meetings of the Senate “prevents her from fully performing her mandate as a lawmaker.”

“With all due respect to the Honorable Court, allowing my online participation in the Senate sessions will not negate the fact that I am still in prison. What the court permission can do however is to pay full respect to the mandate that I received from the Filipino people as a sitting Senator,” De Lima said.

“Please note that there is no civil interdiction imposed on me by any court, thus, there should be no unreasonable restrictions on my rights and legitimate interests,” she added.

She also asserted that she is still in “full possession” of her civil and political rights as her cases as still at the trial stage and has not been convicted of any crime.

De Lima filed her omnibus motion on June 1.

But in a Joint Order dated June 17, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205, presided by Judge Liezel Aquitan denied De Lima’s motion, concluding that “the presumption of innocence does not carry with it the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.”

The court also said that the amendment in the Senate rules states that hearings and sessions via teleconferencing in the upper chamber are only allowed when there is force majeure or an emergency which may prevent senators from physically attending.

“De Lima is prevented to attend the committee meeting or hearings due to her detention. Detention is not a force majeure,” the court order read.

The court said that allowing De Lima to attend the Senate sessions, hearings, and meetings via teleconferencing within her place of detention is “no different from allowing her to attend there physically.”

“Allowing her to do so today would be tantamount to allowing her to participate even after the state of public health emergency,” it added.

De Lima said she is planning to file a motion for reconsideration.

De Lima, one of Duterte administration’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade while she was Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the charges.

De Lima calls on COVID-19 task force to release qualified detainees to decongest prisons

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 2, 2020

Senator Leila de Lima is urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to consider releasing qualified detainees in order to decongest prisons and prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL).

In a statement, De Lima said the government should not to forget those behind bars and to protect those working in closed facilities.

She also said that due to the congestion of detention facilities, PDL’s cannot practice social distancing which makes them more at risk in contracting the disease.

Even with the enhanced community quarantine, De Lima said the number of arrested individuals keep piling up which leads detention centers to exceed its full capacity.

“Given the state of our jails and prisons, the infection rate will be catastrophic. We thus offer a solution: decongest our jails and prisons through a systematic release of qualified PDLs on humanitarian grounds,” she said.

The qualifications proposed by the senator are:

  • Elder PDLs – 70 years old and above
  • PDLs with serious illness or disability
  • PDLs detained, pre-conviction, for minor non-violent offenses
  • PDLs convicted for minor non-violent crimes

De Lima also stressed that those who committed heinous crimes should not be among being considered for early release.

“If done properly, we would be able to free up additional resources to improve the nutrition and sanitation in the jails and prisons for the remaining PDLs. This will also ease some pressure on the jail and prison health care facilities,” she said. AAC

US Sen. Durbin renews call for De Lima’s release from detention

Robie de Guzman   •   January 9, 2020

US Senator Richard Durbin

MANILA, Philippines – United States Senator Richard Durbin renewed his call for the Duterte administration to release detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima, saying this is an “easy and honorable way forward.”

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Durbin urged the Philippine government to give De Lima a quick and credible trial instead of threatening the travel of Americans with visa requirements.

“The Duterte regime should stop threatening the travel of Americans and so many others who travel between our nations, and instead ensure a quick and credible trial for Senator de Lima or simply do the right thing and release her,” he said.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the Philippine government would require all Americans to secure a visa before entering the country should the US government enforce the ban on Filipino officials said to be involved in De Lima’s detention.

The Philippine government also ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny entry to Durbin and Senator Patrick Leahy.

It was Leahy and Durbin who pushed for the inclusion of a provision in the US 2020 budget banning the entry of Philippine officials linked to the detention of the Filipino senator.

Another American senator, Edward Markey, has also been banned from entering the Philippines for filing a resolution calling for De Lima’s release.

De Lima, one of Duterte administration’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade while she was Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the charges.

Panelo reiterated that De Lima’s detention was not a case of political persecution, insisting that the senator was afforded due process and that there is a “probable cause” to issue a warrant for her arrest. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

De Lima wants probe into PH’s hosting of 2019 SEA Games

Robie de Guzman   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the alleged irregularities that marred the country’s hosting of the recently concluded 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.  

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 274 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an investigation on the reported organizational and administrative problems, as well as possible corruption, which affected the biennial sports meet.

She said reports on organizational problems surrounding the country’s preparation “betray a political dynamic that could translate to even greater problems in our sports programs in the future.”

“As we celebrate our athletes’ most successful campaign in recent memory, it is likewise important for our government to scrutinize our performance both as a host country and as patrons to our athletes,” she said in a statement.

De Lima said that prior to its opening on Nov. 30, the country’s hosting of the SEA Games has been beset by organizational issues, including early troubles with transportation and accommodations of teams from Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Cambodia, accreditation issues and lack of halal food for Singaporean delegation, and even problems with accreditation of media.

She also said that several volunteers for the SEA Games also aired their grievances over the alleged lack of system and coordination.

De Lima likewise noted the criticisms on the allegedly exorbitant 50-meter tall cauldron-type structure, which costs P50 million, for the lighting of the torch.

“Proper management and governance necessitate that we conduct an inquiry on the recently concluded SEA Games, especially after the problems encountered were duly documented by the mass media,” she said.

The lawmaker also underscored the need to scrutinize the organizational structure through which the country hosts international sporting events “to ensure that the funds will be properly given to institutions with the mandate and capability to properly utilize them.

“There is a need to investigate the existing sports legislation to ensure that support and funding are given to the agencies that have the proper mandate and that accountability lies even with private organizations, especially those who have access to government resources,” she said.

“While problems of disorganization, incompetence, and inefficiency can be resolved through institutional mechanisms, what cannot be countenanced is the scandalous probability that in the middle of all this disorganization and incompetence, certain high public officials still might have enriched themselves in the procurement of government contracts for the hosting of the games,” she added.

Officials of the Philippine Sports Commission and the SEA Games organizing committee earlier attributed the delays in the preparation of the biennial meet to the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget.

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