By Hannah Torregoza
Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday rebuked the Senate leadership for excluding her from participating in Senate sessions through teleconferencing under the amended rules to be adopted by the upper chamber.
De Lima said such move is nothing but a continuation of the Duterte administration’s efforts to silence and prevent her from fully performing her duties as an elected member of the Senate.
“Foul and unfair! This is petty politics,” De Lima said in her latest statement.
Senators are eyeing amending the rules of the Senate to allow teleconferencing in committee hearings and plenary sessions as Congress prepares for the reopening of its sessions on Monday, May 4, amid the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Senate Resolution No. 373, backed by 15 senators, however, excludes De Lima who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center while facing drug charges.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they cannot allow De Lima to join because the Senate has no jurisdiction over her. “It’s the courts and PNP (that has jurisdiction over her),” Sotto had said.
“Sotto’s statement that the jurisdiction of the courts and the PNP over my person prevents me from participating in Senate sessions via teleconferencing is completely and absolutely misinformed,” De Lima said.
“The ruling of the Supreme Court on this matter is clear. The only limitation brought about by my detention is my mobility and ability to travel. As long as I stay in the detention center, there is nothing that prevents me from performing my job as a duly-elected Senator,” she pointed out.
De Lima, a former Justice secretary, said the court’s jurisdiction is not affected by her participation in Senate hearings via electronic means.
She further said the Senate could have adopted changes in the rules to allow teleconferencing at the same time as the House of Representatives did when both houses of Congress were called for a special session to enact the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act.
“(I) can’t help thinking that the Senate resisted the rule-change, likely because it would have allowed me to participate in that Session,” she said.
“Now, there is pressure to amend the rules to allow members to participate in hearings and sessions via teleconferencing and they make up an inexistent rule or reason that supposedly prevents me from doing even that,” she pointed out.
“I reckon that if I were not a member of the opposition there would have been no ifs and buts in allowing me to participate remotely, just like everybody else, under the proposed new rules,” she added.
De Lima recalled that a Senate resolution was previously filed jointly by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, pushing for her participation in sessions via teleconferencing or similar means, and which the Senate leadership supported.
“Are my other colleagues now saying that the arguments presented in said resolution, and backed up by sound legal principles and case law, are wrong?” she asked.
“If my colleagues really believe in the role of the Senate in our democracy, I should be allowed to participate regardless of my political affiliation and views,” she emphasized.
“Malinaw na ayaw lang talaga ng mga nasa kapangyarihan na ipalahok ako sa mga deliberasyon sa Senado. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan. Kung gugustuhin, hahanap ng paraan. Di ba? (It’s clear that those who are in power really do not want me to join during deliberations in the senate. If they don’t want, they’ll have many excuses. If they want, they will make a way. Right?)” she pointed out.
“And they say there’s no persecution in my case. Really?” she asked.