MANILA - Only the courts have jurisdiction over the transfer of prisoners, human rights lawyers said Monday, following government's move of 10 high-profile convicts from the national penitentiary to a Philippine Marines facility.
President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Friday that he ordered the transfer of the convicts, including seven that testified against Sen. Leila de Lima, out of fear that the detained senator's underlings might kill them.
Government should have sought the court's permission, according to Free Legal Assistance Group lawyer Erin Tañada.
"The argument of Malacañang is wrong because the court should always be informed before an inmate is transferred from one detention facility to another, even if there is a memorandum of agreement because it is only the court that has jurisdiction over inmates," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"Kung di pa nga convicted kailangan ka nga humingi ng permiso sa korte para makapagbiyahe, ito nga nasa loob na ng kulungan."
(If detainees need the court's permission to travel, so should those already convicted.)
The Department of Justice, however, said no court order was needed since the convicts' transfer was to an extension facility of the Bureau of Corrections.
Former senator Rene Saguisag said De Lima, who is detained in Camp Crame in Quezon City, has no power in New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
"Imagine si Leila nakakulong for years ilang years now sa Crame, can influence intimidate, persuade or bribe these seven?" he said.
"I don’t think Sen. De Lima wields that kind of influence. This government has already been in power for 3 years. They have the head of the penitentiary in their command," Tañada added.
Saguisag, meantime, said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) should remove itself from the sedition complaint that the police have filed against De Lima and other opposition figures.
"It’s a kengkoy case pati yung (including the) participation of the SolGen. In my decades of practice it never happened before," he said.
"The OSG should back out dahil it destroys the entire tradition of the SolGen waiting kung kakampihan itong (if it will side with the) individual or all-powerful people of the Philippines."