‘Leila joining Senate debates up to court’
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Senators were one in saying yesterday that it would be best to leave it up to the courts to decide on the appeal of Sen. Leila de Lima to participate in the sessions of the Senate, at least during deliberations on some key issues.

While it was already expected that De Lima’s colleagues from the Senate minority bloc would back De Lima’s appeal, there were members of the majority who also supported the detained senator to exhaust all legal processes so that she could fulfill her duties as a lawmaker.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao said it is the prerogative of De Lima to seek relief from the court and so it would be up to the judiciary to act on the matter.

“There are many important matters here that have to be decided on and it would be a vote wasted if she would not be able to attend,” Pacquiao said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano noted that at this point in time, De Lima is presumed innocent until proven guilty so she can still ask the court to grant her request.

However, Cayetano said that it should be the court alone that should decide on the matter and not the legislative or executive branches.

“If they (court) decide positively then we’ll decide how (to proceed),” he said.

What is important, Cayetano said, is that there is consistency in the actions of the court on such matters.

He recalled the cases of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who all asked the courts to allow them to attend the plenary sessions of the Senate while incarcerated but were rejected.

Of the three, only Trillanes managed to get some relief when he was allowed by the Senate and the Philippine National Police leadership to conduct a hearing at his detention facility in Camp Crame.

Cayetano said that it would be best for the courts to set the rules on these cases for consistency and for future reference if and when another legislator is arrested and detained.

With the advent of new technologies for communication, Cayetano said that it would be easier for detained legislators like De Lima to participate in the plenary sessions even from a remote location, if the courts would allow this.

For Sen. Grace Poe, while De Lima has every right to ask the court for the privilege to attend plenary sessions, she said that there were precedents in the cases of Estrada and Revilla, who were not allowed to take part in Senate proceedings. 

“They were not even allowed to vote while in detention. What would probably happen now if they would allow this, we would have a virtual Senate,” Poe said.

“But this would not look good too because what if there are those who are actually guilty,  who are incarcerated, then they will also be able to participate? What do we do about this now?” she added.

Estrada, on the other hand, said that De Lima should not be given special treatment, in the same way that he was not granted such when he was still a senator.

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