THE Philippine National Police has turned down Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto’s request to allow Senator Leila de Lima to conduct congressional hearings inside the Custodial Center at Camp Crame, Quezon City.
In his response letter dated July 11, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told Sotto that he cannot act upon the senator’s request because of the restriction status of De Lima.
“It is with regret that the PNP cannot appropriately act on the matter considering Senator De Lima’s status as a detention prisoner with restricted right to exercise profession and hold public office,” said Albayalde in his letter.
Sotto had requested the PNP leadership to allow De Lima to conduct her congressional functions even while inside the custodial center in order to finish pending cases and resolutions under her committee, the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
Albayalde reasoned out that any matter pertaining to De Lima’s exercise of legislative functions as an elected senator and conduct of committee hearings is under the jurisdiction of the court handling her cases.
The PNP top cop also mentioned the case of Congressman Romeo Jalosjos who was not allowed by the Supreme Court to exercise his legislative functions while in detention.
In connection with De Lima, the PNP cited the SC ruling that says “all prisoners whether under preventive detention or serving final sentence cannot practice their profession nor engage in any business or occupation, or hold office, elective or appointive, while in detention. This is a necessary consequence of arrest and detention.”
With regard to the Jalosjos case, the PNP quoted the SC ruling that “election to the position of Congressman is not a reasonable classification in criminal law enforcement. The functions and duties of the office are not substantial distinctions which lift him from the class of prisoners interrupted in their freedom and restricted in liberty of movement. Lawful arrest and confinement are germane to the purpose of the law and apply to all those belonging to the same class.”
But in his formal request to the PNP, Sotto had argued that there is already a precedent in allowing a lawmaker perform his duty while in detention. Sotto took note of the case of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who was allowed to conduct hearings behind bars.
“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,” Sotto said in his letter dated July 2, 2018.
He even assured Albayalde that if the request is approved, Senate personnel will cooperate and abide by the regulations that the PNP will impose.
The Senate leader has yet to make a reaction as of this writing to the response of the PNP to his request.