Drilon, Lacson want De Lima to join Senate sessions via teleconferencing

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo Lacson called on the chamber to allow detained Senator Leila de Lima to join their sessions through electronic communications.

Drilon and Lacson filed Senate Resolution No. 51 last Wednesday, July 31, saying that De Lima should be allowed to participate in plenary debates and committee hearings via teleconferencing, video conferencing, and similar methods.

"Even as a detention prisoner, Senator De Lima remains entitled to enjoy her constitutional rights such as the right to be presumed innocent, as well as her full civil and political rights," Drilon and Lacson said in their resolution.

"Her absence unduly deprives the 14 million Filipinos who voted for her [of] their proper representation in the Senate," they added.

De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since her arrest over drug charges in February 2017. She maintains that the charges are a form of political persecution as she is a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement on Sunday, August 4, De Lima thanked Drilon and Lacson for their resolution.

"Great news!  Answered prayers. I've been longing to be given such [a] privilege so I can more meaningfully fulfill my mandate.... Sana po suportahan ng aming mga colleagues (I hope our colleagues will support it)," she said.

Lacson told DWIZ on Saturday, August 3, that if the resolution is granted, De Lima would be able to interpellate and propose amendments, though she cannot vote as she is not physically present.

"At least makaka-contribute siya para pagyamanin ang panukalang batas.... At sabi [ni Senate President Vicente Sotto III], by all means, sinusuwelduhan siya ng gobyerno, marapat lamang pasalihin natin siya sa pinaguusapan sa Senado," Lacson said.

(At least she would be able to contribute and enrich proposed laws... And [Senate President Vicente Sotto III] said, by all means, she is a paid government official, and it is only proper that we let her join the proceedings in the Senate.)

Lacson also noted that when former senator Antonio Trillanes IV was detained, teleconferencing equipment was already bought so he could participate in Senate sessions. These could just be reused now for De Lima, he said.

Lacson also sees no security considerations.

"Hindi naman siya aalis ng kanyang selda. Magse-set up lang ng facilities doon," he said. (She won't leave her detention cell. Facilities will only be set up there.) – Rappler.com