Press Release
May 1, 2020

On De Lima

THE Senate cannot use two different standards on the issue of allowing detained senators to attend virtual sessions, or sessions via teleconferencing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Friday.

Sotto said the Senate cannot allow Sen. Leila de Lima to participate in virtual sessions since such was disallowed during the 16th Congress of the Senate.

Sotto recalled that at the time, the majority bloc thumbed down his request to allow Sen. Bong Revilla and former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada to participate in regular sessions through any social media platform. I got this same response from the leadership then. As the saying goes, the sauce for the goose is also the sauce for the gander," Sotto added.

Sotto was the minority leader at the time. The three senators back then were detained at the PNP custodial center.

The majority bloc's decision, Sotto recalled, was backed by a legal opinion from the Department of Justice, which was then headed by De Lima.

"If they (De Lima and her allies) allowed it (attend sessions via video conference) before, then we can allow it now. But they did not, so we cannot and we will not allow it now," Sotto said.

The Senate chief used the same argument that was employed by the Senate majority and the DOJ when he made his request: the PNP prohibition against the use of communication gadgets by persons who are in detention.

"Being under the custody of the PNP gives them jurisdiction over Sen. De Lima, including what is available for her to use for communication. In her case, she is not allowed a mobile phone, much less access an Internet connection. So how will she join the session?" Sotto asked.

Sotto stressed that the "Senate is not inclined to violate any rules of the PNP." "So, quit saying that it is petty politics," he told De Lima.

Aside from these, the Senate President supported the statement of Sen. Migz Zubiri that no less than the Supreme Court has already ruled that elected or appointed officials cannot hold office while on detention as a consequence of their arrest and detention. The SC has said that allowing detained elected officials to continue to hold office is a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause.

The SC issued the ruling in the cases of former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos and of former Sen. Antonio Trillanes III. The same ruling was issued by the high court on the People vs Maceda case.

Sotto said De Lima can elevate her request to the Supreme Court and vowed that the Senate will abide with the court's decision.

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