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Albayalde denies Sotto’s request for De Lima to hold hearings in Crame

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By Xave Gregorio

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde has denied Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III’s request for detained Senator Leila de Lima to hold Senate hearings from inside her quarters in the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

In a letter on Wednesday (July 11), Albayalde said the PNP “cannot appropriately act on the matter considering Senator De Lima’s status as a detention prisoner with restricted right to exercise profession and hold public office.”

He told Sotto that it is best for the court to decide whether or not to allow De Lima, detained over drug charges, to conduct Senate hearings from Camp Crame.

“Any matter pertaining to requests to exercise her legislative functions as an elected senator and conduct committee hearings for such purpose is a matter for the Court having jurisdiction over her pending case/s to decide,” Albayalde said.

Sotto requested last week for De Lima be allowed “to exercise her functions as an elected senator of the country through the conduct of hearings on pending measures referred to the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.”

With his request rejected, Sotto told Poltiko in a text message that he would “study other options.”

He also nixed going to court as a possible course of action to let De Lima conduct hearings from jail. “I’d rather not interfere with the judiciary and so Ill review other options,” Sotto said.

In his letter to Albayalde, Sotto cited the case of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who was elected while detained over rebellion charges and was allowed to conduct hearings from his quarters in Camp Crame.

In response, Albayalde cited the Supreme Court’s decision on the 2008 Trillanes vs Pimentel case, where Trillanes appealed to be allowed to attend hearings at the Senate. The High Court denied his plea.

There was no mention of Trillanes being allowed to conduct Senate hearings from inside detention in Albayalde’s letter.

Seven bills are currently pending before the Senate committee chaired by De Lima, who has been in pre-trial detention over drug charges for more than a year.

These bills are the Public Solicitation Act, the National Rotary Day, Magna Carta of the Poor, Magna Carta of Day Care Workers, Emergency Volunteer Protection Act, Social Welfare and Development Agencies Act and the Rural Employment Assistance Program Act.

“Clearly, the afore-cited legislations, if passed into law, will be beneficial to all the Filipinos in general and will give the marginalized sectors their needed boost. Thus, the timely holding of a Committee hearing is vital,” Sotto earlier told Albayalde.