DOJ preparing response to De Lima's furlough request

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2017 04:50 PM

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is studying its legal move amid detained Senator Leila de Lima's bid for occasional furloughs so she may cast her vote on "crucial" legislation.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said on Tuesday the department's legal staff is preparing its formal response to the plea. 

De Lima has yet to file the appropriate motion with the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC), where she faces three criminal cases in connection with her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade during her stint as justice chief.

"We have asked our legal staff to look into the law and the prevailing jurisprudence on the matter so that if our comment is asked for by the courts, we can comply. For now, it is still under study," Balmes said, in a statement released to reporters.

De Lima has asked the Senate, through Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, to support her bid, stressing that though detained for non-bailable drug-related offenses, she remains a sitting senator with "full" political and civil rights.

Pimentel said he will look into De Lima's request, but initially labelled it a "propaganda."

Balmes stressed that the decision rests with the courts.

"The matter is for the court, which now has jurisdiction over Senator De Lima to decide. The DOJ respects the rule of law and the separation of powers of the branches of government," he said.

The cases against De Lima stemmed from her alleged involvement in the sale of large volumes of methamphetamine hydrochloride ("shabu") to fund her senatorial campaign. 

The criminal information alleged that through her representatives, De Lima directed high-profile NBP inmates to trade "shabu."