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De Lima to Pimentel: I'm still senator, support my plea for occasional furlough

Sen. Leila de Lima is asking Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to support her request for occasional furlough, to be able to vote on “crucial landmark legislations.”

The neophyte senator, who is currently held at the PNP Custodial Center over drug charges, reiterated that this is necessary for the performance of her duties as part of the upper chamber.

De Lima, who placed 12th in the May 2016 polls, noted that she was elected by 14 million Filipinos, and that she has not been convicted.

“The minimum that I request is for an expression of support for my desire to occasionally be granted furlough by the court in charge of my detention, for purposes of voting on crucial landmark legislations, on a case-to-case basis,” she told Pimentel in a letter dated May 11.

“This is not too much to ask, considering that I have not yet been stripped of my office, and no penalty has yet been imposed on me. At present, I am a mere detention prisoner in full possession of political and civil rights the exercise of which are limited only by the deprivation of my physical liberty, but not by the deprivation of rights which by law have not yet been denied me,” she added.

De Lima insisted that her request would not be for personal reasons, and implied that furlough has been granted to other detained senators over such instances.

“If courts in the past granted furloughs to detailed Senators to attend birthdays—with one Senator having been given his liberty by the Supreme Court no less for a non-bailable crime—I do not think it is too much for the Senate to ask the court in charge of my detention to grand such a consideration, especially since it is not merely to go to a birthday party or for any personal reasons, but to attend to matters of legislation and sovereign representation. The Senate and your good office will not exactly be going out on a limb in supporting such a request,” she said.

“The fact remains that I am still a Senator of the Republic. It is only a question of whether you still consider me as one, to at least extend to me all the formalities of concern appropriate for a colleague who has found herself in unfortunate and most unjust circumstances,” she added. “I earnestly pray that Your Honor, together with our colleagues, sincerely considers this request as my former friend, election client, and above all, as a fellow Senator elected by our people.”

Several members of the Senate have recently found themselves in similar instances, when they were detained during their terms.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, was detained due to rebellion charges for leading at least two attempts to overthrow former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He ran and spent a part of his term at the PNP Custodial Center, until he was granted amnesty in 2010.

Meanwhile, former Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Juan Ponce Enrile were charged and detained for plunder and graft charges in relation to the multi-billion pork barrel scam.

Enrile, now 93, was granted provisional liberty in 2015 after posting a bail of P1.45 million. He had filed the petition to post bail, citing his advanced age and voluntary surrender to the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court. —ALG, GMA News