MANILA - Supporters of detained Senator Leila de Lima held a dialogue with the Philippine National Police (PNP) over allegations that government forces were violating her rights by barring her from media interviews during court appearances.
Sister Mary John Mananzan, executive director of the Institute of Women’s Studies at the St. Scholastica's College, said De Lima’s human rights were violated under the guise of strict security.
“We are disturbed and we are not very agreeable with the way the security is supposed to be securing Senator de Lima. May mga picture na parang sinasakal siya, merong picture na nakaganon ang ulo. At 'yung umuubo lahat ang mga security,” Mananzan said.
Mananzan said it is ridiculous that all police guards were coughing to prevent De Lima from speaking with the media.
“It’s so ridiculous naman 'di ba. Bakit naman nagkasipon sila lahat all at the same time. Parang ang kita namin it’s even against your dignity as PNP na gagawa ng ganon na magco-comedy," she said. “Can the ubo dodge a bullet?”
It is unacceptable, Mananzan said, for the police to tighten the security, just to keep De Lima from talking to friends or to the media.
“Sabi namin, puwede bang a little bit dignity and a little space for the Senator, kase 'yung nakikita natin na video, walang kadignidad-dignidad,” she said.
According to Teresa Quintos-Deles, chair and convenor of advocacy group EveryWoman, they acknowledged the PNP’s role to secure De Lima but they think the situation is uncontrollable.
“Sa tingin namin lumalala eh. Kasi nung una naman na pagharap niya sa korte, hindi naman ganyan, na-interview pa nga siya. Mamaya tinatakpan na siya, 'yung mga pagtaas ng kamay, mamaya may ubo na. Tapos itong huling okasyon na ito, talagang nag-alala kami, 'yung space niya talaga, pagpigil ng pagkilos niya. Although sinasabi nila na makaabot siya sa van right away, we really cannot wait for it to get worse,” Quintos-Deles said.
De Lima's supporters thanked the PNP for meeting with them to raise their concerns.
“We express our appreciation na hinarap kami. We had a good discussion. I think naipaabot naman namin ang concern namin which they said they appreciated. So we said we will continue to watch and monitor the treatment,” Quintos-Deles said.
Senior Supt. Vincent Calanoga, chief of staff of the PNP Headquarters Support Service, said they have no other intent but to secure the senator.
“Sa perspective po ng PNP-HSS, 'yun po ang angkop na security coverage sa kaniya considering the security situation during that time. Doon lang kami nagdedepende, we don’t have other intent but to secure the senator and prevent harm to come to her,” Calanoga said.
Calanoga said they do not grant the opportunity for persons under custody to have presscon during transport.
“Kasi the more time na nasa labas po siya, mas exposed po siya sa danger. The only time na confident na kami sa security ng ating mga under custody ay kapag nasa custodial center na po sila. Other than that, kapag nasa labas siya, 'yung security talagang binibigyan natin ng appropriate attention,” he explained.
Calanoga said the threat assessment varies every time persons under custody are brought outside depending on security condition and situation of the area.
PNP-HSS said they will review the concerns raised by De Lima’s supporters and will adjust accordingly.
“Titingnan namin ang mga pictures at videos nila at kakausapin namin ang mga personnel sa area, then from that, kung ano ang makita namin, we will adjust accordingly. We will submit it for the approval of the PNP hierarchy and concerned offices,” Calanoga said.
The Commission on Human Rights also shared the same observations regarding the alleged excessive police security every time the senator is brought to court hearings.
Instead of answering their complaints, CHR said the PNP opted to speak in details about the condition of De Lima’s custodial cell.
“However, to refute our observations, the PNP, through its Human Rights Affairs Office, has detailed the conditions of Senator de Lima while in detention. This clearly and entirely misses the point.”
“We have called for fairness with respect to how human rights standards are being applied to other persons deprived of liberty compared to Senator de Lima. While conditions may be well in detention, treatment goes beyond the walls of the facility. Incarceration limits specific rights, but does not dissolve them entirely, especially those fundamental to living a dignified life. Not to mention that, pending a fair and competent trial, accused persons are deemed innocent until proven guilty—a Constitutional guarantee that the PNP is equally expected to respect,“ CHR said in a statement.
The PNP Human Rights Affairs Office head, Chief Supt. Dennis Siervo, had said that De Lima is treated well inside her cell, which is 4 times bigger than the United Nations' standard measurement for jail cells.
De Lima has her own mini library, mini garden, and an area for recreation and exercise. She also has personal staff who takes care of her needs inside the facility.
February 24 marks the second year of De Lima’s detention inside the PNP Custodial Center.