By Mario Casayuran
There is no reason why detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima should be deprived of the option to participate in the online plenary sessions and hearings of the Senate, a prerogative that will be available to all other senators.
The Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima issued this statement as it called upon the Senate to reconsider the move to exclude the lady lawmaker from teleconferenced plenary sessions and committee hearings.
After a long recess since mid-March, the Senate and the House of Representatives are scheduled to resume regular session on Monday (May 4) amid fears of possible coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection as Metro Manila remains under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“Allowing her online participation will not in any way interfere with the exercise of jurisdiction of the court and the PNP (Philippine National Police) over the person of the senator, and will even honor the right of her 14 million voters to be represented in the deliberative processes of the Senate,’’ the committee said.
To bolster its position, the committee cited the case of Trillanes v. Pimentel, G.R. No, 179817, 27 June 2008, where the Supreme Court clarified that the limitation in the practice of profession only applies in situations where the person deprived of liberty has to leave the detention facility.
“In this case, Senator de Lima will not leave the PNP Custodial Center, as she intends to attend the Senate sessions and hearings while in the detention facility, with the use of telecommunication and internet technologies, just like her colleagues at the Senate,’’ the group said.
“In the same Trillanes case, the Supreme Court ‘recognized that the accused could somehow accomplish legislative results.’ Thus, despite her detention for more than three years now, Senator de Lima is able to file a good number of bills, resolutions, committee reports, dissenting reports, interpellation questions, and amendment papers,’’ it added.
The committee pointed out that De Lima, who served as justice secretary during the Benigno S. Aquino presidency, is in fact the principal author of some pieces of meaningful legislation, including the 4Ps Act and the Magna Carta of the Poor.
“Finally, it should be emphasized that Senator de Lima is constitutionally presumed innocent, and she does not suffer from any penalty of civil interdiction that prohibits her from exercising her civil and political rights.
“Performing her job as senator, as long as she can do this inside the detention facility, is part of her rights. Thus there is no constitutional or legal impediment to disallow Senator de Lima from taking part in the online sessions, hearings, and meetings of the Senate,” they added.