By Hannah Torregoza
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow detained Senator Leila de Lima to be allowed to conduct hearings inside PNP premises.
In his letter to PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, Sotto requested that the PNP allow de Lima to “exercise her functions as a duly elected senator of the country through the conduct of hearings on pending measures” that were referred to her committee.
The detained senator currently chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development.
“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.
“This request is being made so as the relevant measures that are currently pending in the committee will be given an opportunity to be heard and be deliberated on by the Philippine Senate, consistent with Section 24 of the Senate rules,” the Senate leader also said.
Sotto said the bills pending under de Lima’s panel include the proposed Public Solicitation Act; declaring the National Rotary Day, February 23 of every year; the Magna Carta of the Poor; Magna Carta of Day Care workers; Emergency Volunteer Protection Act; Social Welfare and Development Agencies Act and the Rural Employment Assistance Program Act.
The Senate chief stressed that the measure pending before her committee, if passed into law, would be beneficial to all the Filipinos in general and will give the marginalized sectors their needed boost.
“Thus, the timely holding of a committee hearing is vital,” he said.
Sotto assured Albayalde that the Senate contingent shall abide by the internal rules and regulations of the PNP during the conduct of the committee hearings. He, likewise, said the Senate will closely coordinate with the PNP prior to the scheduled hearing.
The Senate chief earlier visited de Lima in her detention cell at the PNP custodial center where she is currently detained while facing charges for allegedly allowing the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her stint as Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary.
De Lima has vehemently denied the accusations against her saying the charges were part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s effort to discredit her as a vocal critic of his administration.
Asked if de Lima personally asked him to be allowed to conduct committee hearings inside the PNP, Sotto said no.
“She did not exactly ask for it. It was part of our mutual concern to facilitate the House bills referred to her new committee,” Sotto said.