Pimentel advises De Lima to take motion for Senate participation to court

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Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III tells Senate employees about the majority public approval and trust ratings of the Senate in a recent Ulat ng Bayan Pulse Asia survey, during the morning flag rites on Monday, November 7, 2016.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has not yet responded to Senator Leila De Lima's request for Senate participation, but he has advice for the detained former Secretary of Justice.

"She can file motions with the court. The court may have new ways of looking at things. She just [has] to keep filing for motions, motions, motions," Pimentel said on Monday.

When asked if he had responded to De Lima, he answered, "Wala pa... iniisip ko if she really wants a reply kasi parang ang sinulatan niya kayong lahat eh [Not yet... I'm wondering if she really wants a reply, because it seems like she wrote to all of you]."

He emphasized that under circumstances of detention, the detainee should expect that he or she might lose some of his or her rights.

"There is a decided case when you're under detention expect that you also lose the right to practice your profession, to exercise your duties in connection with your occupation," said Pimentel.

He added that there was nothing wrong with having her lawyers continue to file motions. He advised her to "try, try, try."

Pimentel's comments came as the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Committee on Human Rights paid him a courtesy visit.

IPU-Committee on Human Rights President Fawzia Koofi said the IPU was on a fact-finding mission, specifically to assess the situation of De Lima, whose case was presented in the latest IPU assembly.

"The IPU as a body express concern over the human rights violation of a member of the Senate, Senator De Lima," said Koofi.

Pimentel said that he was actually the one who invited IPU to the Philippines, and he would "let them do their job."

"We're helping them but ayaw nila ng help sa substance. We're helping them sa [with] coordination," said Pimentel. "I hope meron silang [they have a] traffic cop escort. Ayaw rin nila ng too much help kasi interference din 'yun [They don't want too much help because that's also interference]."

[Translation: We're helping them but they don't want help in substance... I hope they have a traffic cop escort. They don't want too much help because that's also interference.]

De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for drug charges, had reportedly asked Pimentel to support her plea for occasional furlough in a personal letter dated May 11.

Pimentel was previously quoted as saying "Nasa court na 'yung issue [The issue is with the court], so let the court decide," after De Lima expressed intent to continue participating in Senate sessions on May 1. A statement from her camp said she was willing to participate even if it was "through remote or electronic means."

"I have work to do as a senator and I will continue to do so because I owe it to the more than 14 million Filipino people who voted me in office and represent them in the Senate. I hope I can participate in important debates in the Senate," De Lima said in the statement.

Lawmakers weigh in on De Lima request

Albay representative Edcel Lagman backed De Lima, saying in a statement on Monday that her motion "must be supported and granted by the Senate leadership and membership."

First, he argued that it was in her "constitutional right" as an elected senator "to participate in the voting on important bills."

"Under the Bill of Rights she is presumed innocent pending her detention," said Lagman.

He said that De Lima was "not a flight risk" because she "voluntarily surrendered to police authorities."

"Her security escorts can be maximized to assure that she returns to the detention facility at Camp Crame," Lagman added.

Lagman was one of the seven congressmen who visited De Lima on Monday, along with Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin.


Another Liberal Party ally, Sen. Bam Aquino, also expressed to the media on Monday they are "hoping that she'll be allowed to vote," especially with pending measures such as the death penalty bill, which the party opposes.

"I think it will be up to the Senate and the courts," Aquino said. "It's not really up to her, it's not really up to the minority, it's up to the majority and up to the courts. I don't think may problema naman sa pag-request nito [I don't think there was a problem with requesting this]."

However, another colleague in the Senate, Sen. Tito Sotto, thinks otherwise. In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, Sotto recalled that there was a similar request when Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada were arrested in 2014 for their involvement in the pork barrel scam.

"The leadership during that time, which included Sen. [Franklin] Drilon, did not allow it, and said we should not interfere with the courts," said Sotto.

"I don't think we can do that now, because what's the difference between Sen. Enrile and Sen. De Lima?" he added.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.