De Lima files appeals petition to join Senate online sessions

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 02:01 PM

Embatled Senator Leila De Lima is escorted by heavy guards as she attends her hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on Friday, June 22, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file photo

MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday urged a Muntinlupa court to reconsider its decision to ban her from joining Senate session through videoconferencing. 

The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205's earlier decision is "most alarming," De Lima said in a statement, noting that she is "utterly at a loss" on the legal basis of ruling.

"With all due respect, the Honorable Court’s reasoning is neither here nor there in terms of applying the Supreme Court ruling in Trillanes and Jalojos that legislators under detention are expected to have legislative output and perform the functions of their office within the physical limitation imposed upon them by the conditions of their detention," the senator said, referring to former rulings of the high court.

"Substantially, the last word of the Supreme Court on the matter is that so long as the detained legislator is able to perform legislative functions within his or her place of detention, there is nothing in the law that prevents him or her from doing so," she said. 

Muntinlupa RTC Branch 2015 Judge Liezel Aquitan earlier said that allowing De Lima to take part in the Senate's hybrid sessions "is no different from allowing her to attend there physically."

The Senate earlier passed a measure relaxing the chamber's rules and shifted to a videoconferencing platform for sessions and hearings to limit the possible exposure of senators and their staff to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

De Lima argued that "participation in Senate sessions and committee hearings through teleconferencing... does not entail going out of the four corners" of her detention cell in the Philippine National Police's Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The Custodial Center, however, prohibits the entry of any gadget into the facility.

De Lima said that she would only join Senate sessions and hearings while these are still permitted by the legislative body.

"Once it is no longer made available to senators as the Senate will then revert to requiring physical presence in sessions and committee hearings, then herein Accused sees no possibility of how she can further avail of such system," according to her petition. she said.

The opposition senator has been detained since 2017 over illegal drug operations in the national penitentiary under allegedly her watch. 

De Lima, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his intensified campaign against illegal drugs, called her detention a political persecution.