House opposition backs De Lima's request to join Senate debates
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House opposition bloc are supporting the request of detained Senator Leila de Lima that she be allowed to participate in important legislative deliberations.
The members of the opposition bloc, who dub themselves the "Magnificent 7," visited De Lima at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame on Monday, May 22. The following lawmakers were present:
- Gary Alejano, Magdalo
- Teddy Baguilat Jr, Ifugao
- Emmanuel Billones, Capiz 1st District
- Raul Daza, Northern Samar 1st District
- Edgar Erice, Caloocan City 2nd District
- Edcel Lagman, Albay 1st District
- Tom Villarin, Akbayan
Lagman said De Lima, his party mate from the Liberal Party (LP), should be allowed to join Senate debates on "landmark" legislation because it is her constitutional right and duty to vote on significant measures. (READ: De Lima to seek court nod to join Senate debates)
"Under the Bill of Rights, she is presumed innocent pending her detention. She is not a flight risk as she even voluntarily surrendered to police authorities," said Lagman in a statement.
He added that security escorts of De Lima, who is detained due to drug charges, can be maximized to ensure her return to Camp Crame.
Erice shared the same sentiments in an interview with reporters after the visit.
"Siguro puwede occasionally, 'wag lang 'yung araw-araw na pagdalo sa session. Siguro kung may voting na importante, may mga issues na pag-uusapan, siguro dapat payagan ng korte. Kasi mahalaga din na mai-represent ni Senator De Lima 'yung constituency niya, being a duly elected senator," said Erice.
(Maybe she can be allowed to do that occasionally, but not to attend the session every day. Perhaps when there is important voting that will happen or important issues to discuss, the court should allow her to attend. Because it is important for Senator De Lima to represent her constituency as a duly elected senator.)
"Hindi pa naman siya convicted (She has not been convicted yet). She is still presumed innocent," he added.
Light mood during visit
There was a light atmosphere during the House opposition bloc's visit to De Lima. Baguilat said the embattled senator was "in high spirits."
"Napansin ko habang kwentuhan (I noticed during our talk), the best way to uplift Senator Leila and others na (who are) persecuted for their beliefs is just to visit. Power of company," tweeted Baguilat.
"Nothing subversive discussed. Just tips from Gary on how to bear with detention. Hehe," he added.
De Lima herself wrote a letter about the visit, thanking her allies for visiting her in Camp Crame. She said their chat was a happy one and they discussed important issues in the country.
"Sila ang nananatiling matatag sa kanilang prinsipyo na isulong ang kanilang mga adbokasiya, hindi para masunod ang gusto ng Pangulo, kundi para itaguyod ang kapakanan ng Pilipino. Sa kabila ng paniniil sa ating demokrasya, nariyan sila, naninindigan para sa bayan," said De Lima.
(They remain steadast in their principle to push for their advocacies, not to follow what the President wants, but to uphold the rights of Filipinos. While our democracy is being trampled on, they're still there standing up for the nation.)
"Just like my colleagues in the Senate minority who previously visited me, these lawmakers are the genuine and functioning minority in the House of Representatives. In this time of darkness and flagrant violations of human rights that besiege our nation today, it is really an honor to be fighting with them for truth, justice, and democracy," she added.
The Senate minority bloc, mostly composed of LP members, plans to seek court permission for De Lima to go to the Senate and vote on "critical" measures. – Rappler.com