PNP denies Sotto request to allow De Lima hearings in jail

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) rejected the request of Senate President Vicente Sotto III to allow detained Senator Leila de Lima to hold hearings in jail.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde relayed his decision in a letter to Sotto, which the Senate president's office received on Wednesday, July 11.

"It is with regret that the PNP cannot appropriately act on the matter considering Senator De Lima's status as a [detained] prisoner with restricted right to exercise profession and hold public office," Albayalde said.

The PNP said it is up to the court to decide on any matter related to De Lima's exercise of legislative functions as elected senator.

The PNP cited the Supreme Court (SC) decision on People vs Maceda, which states that:

"[All] prisoners whether under preventive detention or serving final sentence cannot practice their profession nor engage in any business or occupation, or hold office, elective or appointive, while in detention. This is a necessary consequence of arrest and detention."

The PNP also cited the ruling on People vs Jalosjos, which states that:

"[The] election to the position of Congressman is not a reasonable classification in criminal law enforcement. The functions and duties of the office are not substantial distinctions which lift him from the class of prisoners interrupted in their freedom and restricted in liberty of movement. Lawful arrest and confinement are germane to the purposes of the law and apply to all those belonging to the same class."

The Jalosjos decision was also cited in the 2007 court decision against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's plea to attend Senate sessions.

The PNP, however, failed to point out that Trillanes was allowed to hold committee hearings in jail during his last year in detention. He was imprisoned over coup charges during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Following Sotto's recent visit to De Lima, he had asked the PNP to allow her to hold hearings inside the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame as chairperson of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development.

Now, with the PNP's rejection of his request, Sotto said: "I will have to review my options on how to go about this."

According to Sotto, there are at least 6 major bills pending before De Lima's committee which have already been passed on 3rd reading by the House of Representatives:

De Lima is in jail for alleged illegal drug charges, which the detained senator claims were fabricated by President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies out of vengeance. (READ: De Lima: One year of living and surviving in jail) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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