MANILA - (2nd UPDATE) Senate President Vicente Sotto III is asking the Philippine National Police to allow Senator Leila De Lima to conduct legislative hearings at her place of detention.
De Lima is accused of accepting payoffs from convicted crime lords when she was still justice secretary. She has been detained on drug charges at the PNP Custodial Center since February 2017.
In a letter released Friday, Sotto asked PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde to let De Lima "exercise her function as a senator" by conducting hearings on measures referred to the Senate Committee on Social Justice Welfare and Rural Development, which she chairs, inside the detention facility.
"As the Senate President, I am giving Sen. De Lima full authority to discharge her duties as chair of the Committee, particularly to conduct and personally preside over its hearings -- similar to what had been done by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV during his detention," read Sotto's letter dated July 2.
"This request is being made so as the relevant measures that are currently pending in the Committee will be given opportunity to be heard by the Philippine Senate," it added.
Among the bills pending before De Lima's committee are the Public Solicitation Act, the National Rotary Day, Magna Carta for the Poor, Magna Carta for Day Care Workers, Emergency Volunteer Protection Act, Social Welfare and Development Agencies Act, and the Rural Development Assistance Program Act, said Sotto.
"Clearly, the afore-cited legislations, if passed into law, will be beneficial to all the Filipinos in general and will give the marginalized sectors their needed boost. Thus the timely holding of a Committee hearing is vital," he wrote.
Sotto gave assurances that the Senate will abide by police rules during the hearings, and that it will coordinate with the PNP.
Trillanes, who was jailed from 2007 to 2010 after leading a failed coup against the Arroyo administration, was allowed to conduct legislative hearings inside a jail during the last year of his detention.
Sotto's request for De Lima to be given the same privilege came after his recent visit to the detained lawmaker.
DE LIMA 'UPBEAT' OVER SOTTO MOVE
De Lima is "very upbeat and hopeful" over the work she expects to achieve with Sotto, said lawyer Fhillip Sawali, her chief-of-staff.
The senator's legislative staff, he said, was working double time to prepare discussions on the bills pending at her committee.
De Lima eyes starting public hearings on the proposed laws by the third or last week of August, Sawali said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, De Lima's fellow Liberal Party (LP) stalwart, also thanked Sotto for seeking her participation in committee hearings.
"It is right and just for Sen. De Lima to be allowed to perform her duties as a member of the legislature. Despite her unjust incarceration, Sen. De Lima has expressed her desire to carry out her functions as a lawmaker and help craft laws beneficial to the people," he said.
"We hope the Philippine National Police will heed the request of the Senate President," he added.
The police is "preparing a response to Sen. Sotto's letter in consultations with our PNP lawyers," said the PNP Public Information Office.
With a report from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News