De Lima elated over Senate proposal allowing her to participate in Senate sessions via teleconferencing

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today welcomed a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson to allow her to participate in the proceedings of the Senate and perform her duties as a duly-elected lawmaker.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said the proposal, contained in Senate Resolution No. 51, is an answered prayer for her as she has been longing to participate in Senate proceedings.

"Great news! Answered prayers. I've been longing to be given such privilege so I can more meaningfully fulfill my mandate," she said upon learning the news about Drilon and Lacson's proposal allowing her to participate in Senate proceedings.

"I thank, wholeheartedly, the Minority Leader Sen. Drilon and Sen. Lacson for such an initiative. Sana po suportahan ng aming mga colleagues. A blessed Sunday," she added in a statement issued from her detention quarters at the PNP-Custodial Center, Camp Crame.

In filing SR No. 51, Drilon and Lacson maintained that De Lima should now be allowed to join the plenary debates and committee hearings through teleconferencing, video conferencing or other forms of remote or electronic communications.

"Even as a detention prisoner, Senator De Lima remains entitled to enjoy her constitutional rights such as the right to be presumed innocent, as well as her full civil and political rights," Drilon and Lacson said in their resolution.

The two veteran senators insisted that De Lima, as a duly-elected Senator, has the mandate to take part in the process on deliberating and passing important legislations, adding that her absence unduly deprives the 14 million Filipinos who voted for her in 2016.

"As a deliberative legislative body, it is incumbent upon the Senate to take necessary measures to ensure that its members will be given every possible opportunity to participate in its plenary sessions," the senators said in their resolution.

The two senators recalled that in 2010, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 7 and fully concurred with the opinion of the Senate Legal Counsel in the case of Senator Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV who was then facing coup d'etat charges.

The resolution then claimed that Trillanes's inability to attend Senate sessions, hearings and meetings "necessarily affects and impairs the capability of the Senate as a whole to discharge its role and functions in the Legislature."

It also added that Trillanes's inability to perform her duties as a duly-elected senator by attending Senate sessions, hearings and meetings deprived the 11 million citizens who voted for him of representation in the parliament.

In addition, the Supreme Court ruled in Trillanes v. Pimentel (G.R. No. 179817) promulgated on June 27, 2008 that the limitation in the practice of profession only applies in situations where the person in detention seeks to leave the detention center.

"These inherent limitations, however, must be taken into account only to the extent that confinement restrains the power of locomotion or actual physical movement. It bears noting that in Jalosjos, which was decided en banc one month after Maceda, the Court recognized that the accused could somehow accomplish legislative results," the Supreme Court said.

Also, the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 and the promulgation of the Supreme Court of the Rules on Electronic Evidence in 2001, allow the use of electronic communications technology in government and commercial transactions as well as in court proceedings.

Lacson and Drilon insisted that arrangements may be made to allow De Lima to participate in plenary sessions through communications technology that will allow audio-visual interactions with remote audiences or co-participants through secure connection.

If adopted, the Resolution will mandate the Senate Secretary to coordinate and make appropriate arrangements for the setting of appropriate telephone, video, broadband and/or wireless link necessary for the selected mode of remote participation.

The Senate Secretary should also ensure to safeguard the integrity of the session via teleconferencing and proper archiving of the audio-visual or electronic recording as part of the records of the Senate.

Source: Senate of the Philippines