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De Lima open to sessions via teleconferencing

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Sunday expressed gratitude to two of her colleagues for initiating a move that would allow her to participate in the Senate deliberations from her detention cell at Camp Crame through electronic communications.

“I’ve been longing to be given such privilege so I can more meaningfully fulfill my mandate [as senator] … I hope my colleagues will support it,” De Lima said in her latest handwritten dispatch.

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De Lima, President Rodrigo Duterte’s most ardent critic, had been held in a special detention facility at the main camp of the Philippine National Police since February 2017 after she was charged for drug trafficking.

Special arrangement

She had repeatedly questioned her indictment based on the alleged fabricated testimonies of convicted drug lords and insisted that it was intended to silence her from criticizing the President.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, De Lima’s erstwhile political nemesis, jointly filed Senate Resolution No. 51, which sought a special arrangement to let the detained senator join the plenary deliberations of the upper chamber via videoconference.

Constitutional rights

The two senators pointed out that while De Lima was being held for trial, she was still “entitled to enjoy her constitutional rights, such as the right to be presumed innocent, as well as her full civil and political rights.”

“As a deliberative legislative body, it is incumbent upon the Senate to take necessary measures to ensure that its members will be given every possible opportunity to participate in its plenary sessions,” the senators said.

Sotto supports move

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also supported the move, adding that the public had been paying for the operations of De Lima’s office in the Senate.

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Lacson said in a radio interview that although the move would allow De Lima to participate in Senate hearings via teleconferencing, she would not be able to vote as she would have to be physically present to do that.

“But at least she will be able to contribute to enrich the laws we would craft, if our resolution would be adopted,” he said over dwIZ.

The resolution has been referred to the committee on rules, Lacson said.

If the resolution is adopted by the plenary, the facilities for the teleconferencing would be set up.

Via teleconferencing

The equipment for this is already available in the Senate, he added.

He also said the PNP has to agree to the teleconferencing, though he himself sees no problem as there would be no security considerations.

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TAGS: 18th Congress, Franklin Drilon, Leila de Lima, Panfilo Lacson, Senate teleconferencing, Vicente Sotto III
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