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Minority senators ask SC: Allow video or audio conferencing for Sen. Leila in ICC withdrawal case



Minority senators pressed anew for the Supreme Court to allow Senator Leila de Lima to participate in the oral arguments on the Philippine withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, this time proposing the use of technology.

The motion for reconsideration filed at the Supreme Court at 4:20 p.m. of August 23, a day before the high tribunal decided on a separate motion of reconsideration filed by De Lima, who is currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center on false drug-related charges.

"To demonstrate to the Honorable Court that Senator De Lima's motion to personally appear during oral arguments is not a ploy to escape detention, Senator De Lima is willing to argue while in detention through a live video and/or audio feed," the motion said.

It added, "This will address the Honorable Court's apparent concerns regarding Senator De Lima's current detention. If needed, petitioners-senators can supply the necessary equipment and facilities for this to take place."

The motion was filed by Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Antonio Trillanes IV. It was concurred in by De Lima. Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who is out of the country, agrees with the motion.

The appeal was filed in response to the August 7 decision of the high court, which denied De Lima's request to take part in the oral argument set on August 28. De Lima filed a motion for reconsideration on August 16, but which the high court thumbed down in a decision on August 24.

In its appeal, the minority senators argued that "the right to speak for one's self in one's own case is a fundamental right" protected by the due process clause under Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

"The exercise of a constitutional right is basic in our democracy, and it is not Senator De Lima's burden to show why there is a 'compelling reason' to exercise a right granted a priori by the Constitution," they said.

The opposition senators emphasized that a person's right of self-representation is expressly allowed under Rule 138, Section 34 of the Rules of Court.

"It would be the height or irony to prohibit Senator De Lima to argue on a constitutional issue of paramount national importance, given that the Honorable Court has allowed furloughs to persons charged with non-bailable offenses," they said.

The Court has granted requests for furloughs of former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was detained for various cases of plunder, for Christmas and New Year family celebrations. Most recently, Zaldy Ampatuan, who is in detention for the November 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, was allowed to attend his daughter's wedding last Tuesday, August 21.

Philippine courts have also allowed video-conferencing during hearings.

The minority senators also stressed that De Lima's appearance during oral arguments, accompanied by Philippine National Police personnel, "will not make her escape detention, nor avoid charges brought against her."

"As Senator De Lima is constitutionally presumed innocent, her current detention is no ground for depriving her of the right of self-representation because she has not been tried and convicted of the charges brought against her," they said.

"If she is prevented from exercising that right, then Senator De Lima is being detained as a form of punishment by the unlawful deprivation of her constitutionally guaranteed rights," they added.

www.senate.gov.ph