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Senate minority wants detained De Lima to lawyer for them at SC

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by Xave Gregorio

Detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima has been asked by the Senate minority to lawyer for them before the Supreme Court during the oral arguments on their petition questioning the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“We have requested Senator Leila de Lima to be our counsel of record and will argue for us this case,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon revealed Thursday (June 14) at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum.

“This is a question of the Rome Statute, human rights and Leila was a former chairman of the Commission of Human Rights and a secretary of Justice,” Drilon explained.

The Senate minority asked the Supreme Court last month in a 17-page petition for certiorari to void the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute and the ICC, as this was done without the Senate’s concurrence.

“Our theory is a treaty is part of the law of the land,” Drilon said. “Therefore, when you withdraw from a treaty and in effect repeal the treaty as part of the law of the land, you must secure the concurrence of the Senate.”

Drilon said De Lima, who has been detained over drug charges for more than a year, is expected to physically appear before the Supreme Court during the oral arguments scheduled on July 24 if she accepts their request to be their counsel.

This despite Article VI, Section 15 of the Constitution barring senators and congressmen from personally appearing as counsel before any court, electoral tribunal, quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies.

“She will file an appearance if she accepts our engagement, she will appear and file an appearance as our counsel and counsel also for herself. And in the oral arguments, we’ll request that she’ll be allowed to argue,” Drilon said.

The Senate Minority Leader, who is an abogado, explained that De Lima continues to be under the custody of the courts even when she appears as a lawyer for her fellow opposition senators.

“Appearing before the Supreme Court is only a continuation of her custody with the courts. And she is not under the custody of the PNP (Philippine National Police) technically, she is under the custody of the court, the PNP is simply an agent of the court. The PNP can be ordered where to bring [former] Secretary De Lima,” Drilon said.

Politiko has asked De Lima’s camp whether she has accepted the Senate minority’s invitation.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared in February the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, after the tribunal launched a preliminary examination on his deadly drug war, which is estimated to have killed thousands of suspected drug personalities.

The Constitution expressly provides that the Senate’s concurrence is needed for treaties to come into force in the country, but is silent on whether the same is also needed for the withdrawal from treaties.