By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate will be asking the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow Senator Leila de Lima to hold committee hearings while in detention.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would write PNP chief Director-General Oscar Albayalde to permit the detained lawmaker to conduct hearings in Camp Crame.
Sotto on Thursday morning visited De Lima, saying he went to check on her condition and discuss matters relating to legislative work. The visit lasted 37 minutes, according to his office.
The Senate chief said he informed De Lima of the pending bills before the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, which the senator chairs.
“Ang dami pala niya nakapending na House bills, including seven House bills. [I] told her kailangan mareport ang mga bills na ‘yon (I learned that pending bills have piled up before her committee. I told her that these bills should be reported out),” Sotto said in an interview.
There are at least 47 bills yet to be discussed by the De Lima committee, according to Sotto.
The senator, who has been detained for more than a year due to drug charges, has repeatedly appealed to allow her to participate and vote in Senate discussions. Minority senators have also filed resolutions calling on the Senate to push for her appeal.
Sotto, following his visit, told reporters that he has committed to look into De Lima’s concerns on hearings and pending bills.
Among their plans is to conduct hearings at the PNP Custodial Center, like when Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV conducted hearings and meetings while he was detained.
“I’ll write a letter and ‘pag pinayagan (when allowed), [we will] send members of committee secretariat to take down proceedings,” Sotto said. “Hopefully, payagan (it will be allowed),” he added.
Sotto said he and De Lima have agreed that her vice chairpersons will report on the bills approved by the committee. Senators Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar are the social justice committee vice chairpersons.
Sotto said De Lima also asked to be allowed to monitor Senate proceedings. He said he will make a separate request to the PNP to let De Lima watch afternoon sessions through a computer tablet, since television is not allowed in detention.
Aside from these, Sotto said De Lima did not ask any other special favors.
“She was not asking for any special favors. She said she was being treated fairly and is content in receiving the same treatment as other detainees,” he told reporters.
He also noted that De Lima was “in high spirits” when he visited her, bringing with him tinapa rice and some pastry from his wife.
“Don’t know if she was happier, with tinapa rice or my visit,” Sotto said.
De Lima, meanwhile, thanked Sotto for checking on her situation.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, she said was elated that Sotto considered her proposed measures and resolutions in the Senate.
“I am looking forward and assured the Senate leadership to work with them closely in fulfilling my duties as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development as well as my mandate to the Filipino people,” she said.