By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has reminded an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) panel that the Philippines is a sovereign state and that it should not meddle in its internal affairs.
The IPU’s human rights committee recently announced its plan to look into the possible rights violations committed against opposition Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes for the cases filed against them.
But the statement did not sit well with Sotto who viewed it as an interference of the country’s judicial processes.
“Perhaps the IPU’s human rights committee should be reminded that the Philippines is a sovereign state with a working judicial process, and a Constitution that decrees the separation of powers for the executive, legislative and judicial branches,” Sotto told the Manila Bulletin in a text message Tuesday.
“Pati judiciary natin gustong pakialaman, eh,” he added.
Sotto said he is inclined to support the proposed withdrawal of the Philippines’ membership from the IPU, a suggestion by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
However, the Senate chief said he would have to consult first his colleagues on the matter.
But Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel Tuesday, said the withdrawal from the IPU would already be “extreme” as he believed that it should be discussed first.
“I think we should talk about it, we should keep an open mind. Maybe the withdrawal is such an extreme step to take. Maybe some official protest from the Senate, as a member (is enough)” Pimentel told ANC’s Headstart.
While he understands that the IPU is “so obsessed” to protect their member-parliamentarians, Pimentel also thought that the IPU has “overreached” the country’s situation, particularly with De Lima’s case.
“The committee on the human rights of parliamentary is doing its job, but part of your job is investigating and also listening not only to the complainant, but to the other side, and you should seriously listen,” he added.
He said the IPU “refused” to understand when he, as then-Senate President, appeared before its human rights panel to explain the how the Philippine Constitution works and already told them that De Lima’s case has reached he Supreme Court.
“They were already closed-minded,” Pimentel said when asked about how the members of the committee responded to his explanation.
“They demanded the release of Sen. De Lima, I said that issue already reached the Supreme Court. The Philippine Supreme Court did not order her release, and you should respect that,” he recalled.
Like Pimentel, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have also expressed their opposition to Arroyo’s proposal.
Lacson said the withdrawal of country’s membership in the IPU would mean the Senate’s acknowledgment of the political persecution of De Lima and Trillanes.