De Lima laments Muntinlupa court’s denial of her bid to join Senate virtual sessions

Published June 19, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Friday said she is dismayed over the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court’s denial of her motion to join the Senate’s sessions via teleconferencing from within her place of detention at the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Custodial Center in Quezon City.
De Lima maintained that banning her from taking part in the Senate’s online sessions, hearings, and meetings prevents her from fully performing her mandate as a lawmaker who was elected by more than 14 million Filipinos in the 2016 elections.


The senator insisted her cases are still at the trial stage and she has not been convicted of any crime thus, she is still in full possession of her civil and political rights, which she intends to assert and fully exercise.

“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.

She pointed out that the Senate has already amended its rules to allow the attendance of its members via teleconferencing during extraordinary times, such as the quarantine measures in Metro Manila as a response to the pandemic.

“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,” the senator emphasized.

De Lima, last June 1, filed an omnibus motion to join plenary sessions through teleconferencing, saying there is no longer any valid reason for her not to be able to participate since Senate sessions and committee hearings are now done through teleconferencing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in a joint order dated June 17, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 Judge Liezel Aquitan denied De Lima’s omnibus motion, ruling that the presumption of innocence does not carry with it the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.

The former justice secretary, however, responded that: “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,” she 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 stressed.

De Lima said she will file a motion for reconsideration with the same judge and hope the court will take into consideration the legal merits of her position.