By Manny Mogato
MAY 31, 2020 – The political opposition on Sunday called on the national police to end the more than a month solitary confinement of a sitting senator, reiterating it was against the constitution and international human rights law to hold her incommunicado.
In a statement, Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said they urged national police to reconsider the case of Senator Leila de Lima as the country further relaxes restrictions imposed since mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“Surely, with the easing of restrictions brought by the Enhanced Community Quarantine, this also applies to the protocols of the police for persons deprived of liberty,” they said in a joint statement, “One is not allowed visitors and physical meetings, rendering one incommunicado. It is inhumane. It is unhealthy, and physically and mentally taxing. It is against our most basic human rights.”
Last week, the three senators sent an email to National Police chief, General Archie Gamboa, asking him to allow de Lima’s staff and family members to visit her as part of her legislative work.
De Lima has been in detention since February 2017 on drug charges, which the opposition said was fabricated to silence her. But on April 25, her visitations rights were suspended due to the pandemic. Since that time, she was only allowed four telephone calls.
“While most of the world continues to be in quarantine, it’s more so for those who are illegally detained,” the political opposition said. “Rights know no prison. Rights know no lockdown. The plight of Senator Leila De Lima and all those who are unjustly detained will never be forgotten.”
The Liberal Party also protested the harsh treatment against de Lima. “We cannot allow Sen. De Lima incommunicado for long,” the party said in a separate statement, describing her detention as “unjust”.
“The coronavirus pandemic must not deprive Sen. Leila of her right to information, vital health services, and communication with her loved ones. These rights know no lockdown and should be respected.”
Gamboa has not responded to the senators’ email and de Lima’s jailers justified the cancellation of her visitation rights as part of government’s quarantine protocols. They said all other detainees were denied visitors and they could not give her a special treatment.
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