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By Prince Golez

Members of the minority bloc in the Senate should focus on passing the proposed budget for 2021 instead of calling for her immediate release, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

Panelo issued the statement after the Senate minority bloc on Sunday urged the Duterte administration to release De Lima from detention noting that the “fraudulent concocted evidence” against the senator is “crumbling.”

“The colleagues of De Lima should focus on their duties on deliberating on the national budget and stop themselves from lawyering for De Lima. That’s not what the taxpayers pay them to do,” Panelo said in a statement Sunday evening.

“As lawmakers, these minority senators should know better. They should know their law, do they? There are remedial processes that may be availed of should they feel that the cases against the embattled senator must be dismissed. Issuing statements before the media is among them. That is a job for the lawyer of De Lima,” he added.

Panelo also downplayed the remarks made by De Lima’s legal counsel Boni Tacardon that AMLC Financial Investigator Artemio Baculi Jr. and PDEA Digital Forensic Examiner Krystal Caseñas told the court that they found no suspicious transactions linking de Lima to the illegal drug trade.

“It is foolhardy for the minority senators to believe the lawyer of De Lima, as he will not make any statement against her client. His evaluation of the testimonial and documentary evidence favoring his client is expected and unsurprising. It is the Court hearing the case that will give evidentiary weight to the evidence presented before it,” according to him.

He insisted that de Lima, who has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center since her arrest in 2017, is being accorded due process.

“[She] has the right to defend herself. Due process is working for her, as it should be. And she is being afforded all the rights and privileges of a person accused of being involved in the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice Secretary,” the Palace official said.

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