Sotto requests permission for De Lima to exercise limited Senate duties

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This story was updated to include a statement from the Philippine National Police.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) Senate President Tito Sotto wants detained Senator Leila De Lima reporting for duty — at least in limited capacities.

In a letter dated July 2, Sotto wrote to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde requesting for the institution to allow De Lima to participate in some Senate hearings.

"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," Sotto wrote.

In particular, he suggested allowing her to fulfill her functions as chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice, Welfare and Rural Development — from "inside the premises of the PNP Custodial Center" where she is detained.

Sotto added that this would be similar to permissions granted to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who won a Senate seat in 2007 from behind bars.

PNP spokesperson Bong Durana acknowledged receipt of the letter on Friday and said it was preparing a response.

"We took note of the desire of the Senate President that relevant bills under the Committee of Sen. De Lima be heard and deliberated inside a custodial facility with due considerations to its security implications and in deference to the relevant court," he said.

Sotto said the request was made in light of the following pending measures at the committee:

  • Public Solicitation Act
  • National Rotary Day, February 23 of Every Year
  • Magna Carta of the Poor
  • Magna Carta of Day Care Workers
  • Emergency Volunteer Protection Act
  • Social Welfare and Development Agencies Act
  • Rural Employment Assistance Program Act

Sotto said that the bills, if passed into law, would be beneficial for marginalized sectors and all Filipinos.

"Thus, the timely holding of a Committee hearing is vital," he added.

The letter comes about a week after Sotto visited De Lima at the PNP Custodial Center.

De Lima was arrested on drug charges in February last year, although her camp has maintained that the charges are false. The opposition senator was a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.

Since her detention, De Lima has been unable to vote on Senate measures or attend hearings. However, she has continuously drafted proposals.  According to her staff, she has authored 22 bills and 59 resolutions, co-authored 24 bills and four resolutions, and co-sponsored one bill during the second regular session of Congress.

Sotto said the Senate would coordinate with and abide by the rules of the PNP if it would allow De Lima to participate.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Cecille Lardizabal and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.