On the eve of Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima’s 60th birthday, eight former Senators have expressed support to calls to allow her to fully discharge her duties as a lawmaker duly elected by more than 14 million Filipinos in the 2016 elections.
In their signed statement, former Senators Rene Saguisag, Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tanada Sr., Sergio “Serge” Osmena III, Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Mar Roxas, Francisco “Kit” Tatad, and Benigno S. Aquino III, expressed their collective support to let De Lima to fulfill her mandate.
“While Senator De Lima is a mere detention prisoner enjoying the Constitutional presumption of innocence, as well as civil and political rights, the fact of her incarceration has prevented her from performing her duties to participate in the legislative process,” they said.
“To allow Senator De Lima the full discharge of her role and duty as a parliamentarian is to pay respect to the mandate of more than 14 million Filipinos who voted for her into office,” they added.
The former Senators issued their joint statement during the launching of the “Free Leila Committee” at Club Filipino in San Juan City. De Lima will turn 60 on Aug. 27.
Among these duties are attending plenary sessions, voting on bills and resolutions, attend important hearings and caucuses and to hold hearings of the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, which she chairs.
“As former Senators, we know the importance of taking part in all of these vital aspects of lawmaking,” the statement said.
The former lawmakers aired their support behind the proposed Senate Resolution No. 51 filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson to let De Lima participate in plenary sessions through teleconferencing.
In their resolution, Drilon and Lacson said she should be allowed to fulfill her mandate by participating in plenary sessions via teleconferencing, video conferencing or other forms of remote or electronic communications.
The resolution was also backed by Senate President Vincente “Tito” Sotto III, who expressed his approval for De Lima to join the plenary sessions through available technology.
The former senators also expressed support behind similar moves to enable De Lima to vote on key bills and resolutions, join important meetings and conduct public hearings of her committee within the premises of Camp Crame where she is currently detained.
“If needed, measures should likewise be taken to secure permission from the courts to allow her to personally participate during important sessions, meetings and hearings at the Senate,” the past senators said.
“I fervently wish that the Drilon-Lacson Resolution be given life soon”, De Lima said.
De Lima, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, remains in detention for more than two years now for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the administration using convicted and perjured criminals as witnesses.
She repeatedly maintained her innocence from the charges, saying these are all part of Duterte administration’s political retaliation for being the staunchest critic of its crooked policies.