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Courts let US lawmakers visit De Lima in detention

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Courts let US lawmakers visit De Lima in detention
This photo of former Sen. Leila de Lima was taken on July 29, 2022 after the hearing at Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 204.
Office of Leila De Lima / release

MANILA, Philippines — Two Muntinlupa courts granted Friday the request of former Sen. Leila de Lima to allow lawmakers from the United States to visit her in the custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City after the delegation was denied entry by police the day before.

Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara and Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura allowed the US lawmakers to visit De Lima as the prosecution did not raise any objections against it.

In the order from Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204, De Lima is said to have pre-arranged and coordinated the US lawmakers’ visit with the Philippine National Police, through a letter sent to police chief PGen. Rodolfo Azurin last August 10.

“However, despite follow ups, the PNP has not timely responded to the request,” read a portion of the order.

US Senator Ed Markey also sent a letter to Azurin on August 9 informing him that he is leading a congressional delegation and requesting that they be allowed to meet De Lima in her detention center on August 18.

Despite these letters, however, the US lawmakers were not allowed to visit De Lima on that day as police reasoned that they lacked a court order.

“Such interaction with any specific PUPC (person under police custody) is subject to express permission of the concerned judicial authorities, with due consideration of the prevailing COVID-19 situation in Camp Crame,” said PNP public information officer Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba in a statement.

A media advisory from De Lima’s camp said US lawmakers, led by Markey, were scheduled to visit the former senator on Thursday morning to discuss the progress of the remaining drug cases against her.

Aside from Markey, US Congress members Alan Lowenthal, John Garamendi, Don Beyer and Aumua Amata Radewagen were also on the list of De Lima’s visitors.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the purpose of the visit of the US delegation is to inspect detention facilities in the country. However, it is unclear if they were able to see the facility where De Lima is housed.

“We explained to them it will be in violation of security protocols and judicial protocols and processes to talk with and interview persons under PNP custody,” Fajardo told reporters.

US Sen. Edward Markey is one of the American lawmakers who have been calling for the release of De Lima.

On Thursday, Markey also met with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The chief executive wrote on a Facebook post: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the US in the areas of renewable energy use, agricultural development, economic reform and mitigation of drug problem.”

— Xave Gregorio with a report from Kristine Joy Patag and Emmanuel Tupas/The STAR

ED MARKEY

LEILA DE LIMA

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