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After HRW's call for next president to free De Lima, Lacson says only courts can release her

BATANGAS CITY, Batangas — Presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said only the courts can order the release of a person deprived of liberty (PDL) after a human rights group called on presidential candidates to vow to drop the charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima.

“Hindi puwedeng palayain ng pangulo ang isang nakakulong dahil sa warrant of arrest. Korte lang ang puwedeng magpalaya sa kanya either by granting bail or acquitting,” Lacson said in an ambush interview after his campaign sortie in Batangas City.

(A president cannot order a release of a person who was detained because of a warrant of arrest. Only courts can release her either by granting bail or acquitting her.)

The lawmaker explained that it will be an encroachment of the mandate of the judicial branch should the president order the release of a PDL.

“Wala sa kapangyarihan ng isang presidente, maski gaano ka-powerful ang isang  presidente, na mag-utos i-release [and detained person]. ‘Pag gano'n, encroachment na ‘yon sa jurisdiction ng Judicial branch [of government],” Lacson said.

(It is not within the powers of the president, regardless how powerful he is, to order the release of a detained person. If that happens, that could be considered as an encroachment of the jurisdiction of the Judicial Branch.)

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a statement calling on the presidential candidates to make a “pledge to drop all charges” against De Lima.

De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, is detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, for drug charges which her camp had called "trumped up." She is also seeking a second six-year term at the Senate in the upcoming elections.

“Senator de Lima’s long-term wrongful detention exemplifies the lawlessness and cruelty of the Duterte administration,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams said.

“Candidates for president should commit to free de Lima immediately and to rebuild the Philippines’ tarnished criminal justice system to meet international standards,” he added.

Adams said De Lima should not have waited for the election of the country’s next president to be released. —KG, GMA News