Heavily guarded De Lima votes in Parañaque

Robie de Guzman   •   May 13, 2019   •   1596

Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Monday afternoon cast her vote for the 2019 midterm elections after she was granted furlough by a Muntinlupa court.

Under heavy security, De Lima cast her ballot at Sta. Rita College in Parañaque at past noon.   

Nearly 100 policemen from Camp Crame and Parañaque escorted De Lima to the polling center where she spent around 15 minutes.

Police lined the hallway to her precinct and guarded the doors while others were stationed on the school grounds and outside of the gate.

The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 last week granted De Lima’s request for furlough to vote during the elections as allowed under the Commission on Election’s “Escorted Detainee Voting System.”

The court said in its order that De Lima will shoulder all costs for her transport from her detention facility in Camp Crame in Quezon City to her precinct in Parañaque City.

She was also banned from giving any media interviews before and after voting.

According to De Lima’s legal counsel, her client wanted to exercise her right to suffrage and vote for her supported candidates.

“Tuwang-tuwa kami na at least napagbigyan kami [sa] ganitong kahilingan at sana nga ‘yung mga sunod na kahilingan ni Senator De Lima ay mapagbigyan din,” Atty. Boni Tacardon told UNTV News and Rescue in an interview.

The senator, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was detained since February 2017 over illegal drug-related charges. She was also accused of accepting drug money from convicted drug lords when she was still Justice Secretary.

However, De Lima’s camp had repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting that charges against her are only fabricated in a bid to silence Duterte’s critics. (with details from April Cenedoza)

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.

De Lima marks 1,000th day in detention

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday marked her 1,000th day in detention, calling it unjust and illegal, since she was arrested for drug-related charges.

In a statement, De Lima said that until now, she still feels disbelief over her ordeal and described her time in detention as days of “isolation, restrictions and restraints, agitations, doubts, and apprehensions.”

A vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, De Lima was arrested in 2017 over allegations she was behind the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons especially during her stint as Department of Justice Secretary under the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

She was also accused of accepting drug money to fund her senatorial campaign in 2016 elections.

The senator has repeatedly denied the drug allegations, as well as claims that she protected drug lords.

De Lima, however, said that being in detention had its benefits for her.

“But there’s the other side, the good side,” she added. “1,000 days of a contemplative life of simple joys and wants, of prayerful reflections. Days of sustained sanity and willpower. The will to survive, and overcome.”

She also said that physical restrictions “did not prevent her from truly being “free.”

“I’m freer than most. Free to think and feel. Free to speak out. Free to fight. Unbelievable graces from the great Giver!” she said.

The lawmaker said that despite being detained, she still managed to fulfill her electoral mandate by authoring 52 bills and 20 resolutions.

She said she also co-authored three bills and five resolutions, so far, in the 18th Congress.

Supporters of the Senator have also marked her 1,000th year in detention in a gathering in Quezon City and Iriga City in Camarines Sur on Wednesday.

An indignation run, dubbed “#1KNotOK Indignation Run,” will also be held in the said areas to protest De Lima’s detention, and rally for her freedom.

The run in Quezon City was organized by the Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, the University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council and Tindig Pilipinas, while the run in Camarines Sur was led by De Lima’s youngest brother, Vicente “Vicboy” M. de Lima II.

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