AN OFFICIAL of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday that only the court can decide on whether to allow detained Senator Leila de Lima to participate in Senate deliberations on "critical" bills.
"The matter is for the court, which now has jurisdiction over Senator de Lima to decide. The DOJ respects the rule of law and the separation of powers of the branches of government," Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes.
Balmes said the DOJ is now looking into the law and the prevailing jurisprudence on the matter so that they can comply when their comment is asked for by the court.
"For now, it is still under study," he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said the DOJ will oppose any move to allow De Lima to attend Senate hearings on the death penalty bill.
"E dapat makulong siya e. Why should she be entitled sa ginagawa ng senator. Siyempre 'pag ikaw ay nakakulong your rights should be... otherwise kung ganun din e 'wag na lang ikulong yan," Aguirre said.
In a letter sent to Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Sunday, De Lima asked her colleagues to support her plea for the court to grant her furlough "occasionally" to attend Senate deliberations on critical bills, including the death penalty bill.
She said that since she has not yet been convicted of any charges, she is still in full possession of her "political" and "civil" rights and therefore she is entitled to vote as a senator of the republic.
"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 on voting for crucial landmark legislations on a case-to-case basis," De Lima said.
"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," she added.
The senator is currently detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center following her arrest for drug charges over her alleged involvement in the proliferation of narcotics trading in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary. (SunStar Philippines)