De Lima asks court to reconsider request to join online Senate sessions
MANILA, Philippines —Detained Senator Leila de Lima has asked a Muntinlupa court to reconsider its earlier decision that denied her request to participate in virtual Senate sessions from her detention cell inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.
In a seven-page motion for reconsideration filed by De Lima’s lawyer on June 22, the senator said she is “utterly at a loss” on the legal basis for the court’s dismissal of her omnibus motion, which seeks that she be allowed to join Senate sessions via teleconferencing.
“With all due respect, the Honorable Court’s reasoning is neither here nor there in terms of applying the Supreme Court ruling…that legislators under detention are expected to have legislative output and perform the functions of their office within the physical limitation imposed upon them by the conditions of their detention,” De Lima’s motion for reconsideration read.
“Substantially, the last word of the Supreme Court on the matter is that so long as the detained legislator is able to perform legislative functions within his or her place of detention, there is nothing in the law that prevents him or her from doing so,” she added.
In denying De Lima’s request to participate in online Senate sessions, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 in its joint order dated June 17 ruled that allowing De Lima to participate in Senate sessions via teleconferencing “would be tantamount to allowing her to participate even after the state of public health emergency.”
But De Lima argued that the court’s conclusion was “most alarming” because the amended Senate Rules would give her an opportunity “to add to the kind of legislative work she can accomplish while inside her detention cell.”
The Senate earlier amended its rules to allow a shift to “hybrid” plenary sessions and committee hearings as the coronavirus pandemic triggered restrictions in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
“Again, it is clear that participation in Senate sessions and committee hearings through teleconferencing by herein Accused does not entail going out of the four corners of her detention cell or the immediate premises of the PNP Custodial Center where she is being detained,” De Lima went on.
“Due to the wonders of modern technology and scientific advances, coupled with the Senate Rules that recognize such technology and advances, Senators can now participate in Senate sessions and committee hearings without having to be physically present at the Senate premises,” she added.
The detained senator maintained that she only wants to avail of the opportunity that is “also made available to other Senators during such times that sessions and hearings via teleconferencing are permissible under amended Senate rules.”
“Once it is no longer made available to Senators as the Senate will then revert to requiring physical presence in sessions and committee hearings, then herein Accused sees no possibility of how she can further avail of such system,” she said.
“Suffice it to say that if allowed, herein Accused’s participation in sessions and committee hearings via teleconferencing ends when the Senate itself declares that the force majeure or emergency no longer exists, thereby necessitating the physical presence of Senators within the Senate premises to be able to participate in sessions and committee hearings,” De Lima added.
The senator, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest critics, has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame, since February 2017 over what she repeatedly claims as “trumped-up” drug-related charges against her.
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