‘Unreasonable’ restrictions: Lawyer, others barred from visiting detained De Lima
MANILA, Philippines — The lawyer Senator Leila de Lima and other visitors were barred from seeing her Friday morning at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center inside Camp Crame in Quezon City, where she is currently being detained.
According to De Lima’s office, her chief-of-staff Atty. Fhillip Sawali, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and Father Flavie Villanueva presented their identification cards and were told to wait outside the Custodial Center for about an hour but were prevented from visiting the senator.
“Tayo ay nasa Camp Crame ngayon para kay Senator Leila de Lima. Pero nung kami’y pumasok sa Custodial Center, ay hindi kami pinayagang bumisita. Sabi daw ay hintayin daw namin yung request sa itaas,” Diokno was quoted as saying in an interview transcript sent by De Lima’s office to reporters.
(We are here at Camp Crame to visit Senator Leila de Lima. But when we entered the Custodial Center, we were not allowed to make a visit. They said they are still waiting for a directive from the higher-ups).
Diokno and Sawali maintained that preventing the senator’s access to her lawyers, doctors, priests, and counselors is a violation of her rights as these people are all considered essential visitors.
“Bawal po ito sa ating full Constitution. Tinatawag po itong incommunicado detention. May mga batas din po tayo at mga international standards and laws, kagaya ng Mandela Rules, na karapatan po ng sinomang nakakulong ang reasonable contact to the outside world,” Sawali said.
(This is prohibited by the Constitution. This is called incommunicado detention. We have laws and international standards, like the Mandela Rules, that it is the right of detainees to have a reasonable connection to the outside world).
While Villanueva respects the job of authorities, he said the government should not use the police to “oppress” De Lima.
The senator has not been seen by anyone from outside the PNP Custodial Center since late April.
Diokno and Sawali urged the PNP to lift the “unreasonable” personal and work-related restrictions imposed on De Lima, adding that her rights as a Filipino citizen and as a lawmaker should be respected.
Earlier, De Lima’s fellow minority senators protested her “incommunicado detention” through a letter addressed to PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.
The minority bloc, led by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, stressed that the “status quo where (De Lima) is not allowed visitors and physical meetings with anyone effectively results in incommunicado detention or solitary confinement.”
They cited Article III, Section 12(2) of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits “[s]ecret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention.”
“This action of the PNP Custodial Center is unconstitutional, illegal, and violates a cardinal precept of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that solitary confinement and incommunicado detention are universally outlawed,” the senators’ letter read.
When sought for comment, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac told INQUIRER.net in a Viber message that “visits are temporarily restricted under ECQ/MECQ as part of biosafety measures to prevent the spread of (COVID-19) inside PNP camps and police stations.”
“If NCR will be placed under GCQ, restrictions will ease up as PNP frontline services may start to open to the public but on a limited capacity, strictly following social distancing and contact tracing rules,” he added, referring to PNP’s Firearms and Explosives Office, Supervisory Office on Security and Investigation Agencies, and the Highway Patrol Group’s Motor Vehicle Clearance Office.
De Lima has been detained over what she repeatedly said were “trumped-up” drug-related charges since February 2017.
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