MALACAÑANG on Thursday, February 22, shrugged off the Senate minority bloc's call for the "immediate release" of detained Senator Leila de Lima, who will mark her first year of detention on Saturday, February 24.
"Happy first anniversary in detention, Senator Leila de Lima," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said, amid the opposition senators' appeal to set De Lima free.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Ana Theresia Hontiveros have filed Senate Resolution 645 pushing for the release of De Lima, a vocal critic of the administration.
The minority lawmakers said De Lima should be freed as she does not deserve "illegal arrest and unjust detention."
They claimed De Lima's detention had stemmed from her investigations on the supposed existence of the Davao Death Squad and on the spate of extra-judicial killings in the country as then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and as a senator, respectively.
The senators said these investigations had "earned the ire of then Davao mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte," whose name was linked to both issues.
"As her colleagues at the Senate, we are pained by the reality that a member of this chamber is locked up in jail on trumped-up charges when she should be here with us, engaging in productive discussions, legslating laws, and serving her constituents and our country," they said.
Roque said De Lima's allies should let the competent court act on her case.
He also called on them to avoid "political interference" to influence the court's decision on the drug-related complaints lodged against De Lima.
"As to the call of the senators, that's up to the courts. I hope the senators will not politicize our courts. Let our courts function as they should, free from political interference. I'm appealing to the opposition senators do not influence the judges,"he said.
De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017 and is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City because of her alleged involvement in the illicit drugs trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City when she was then Justice Secretary.
She is facing three counts of drug charges filed before separate courts in Muntinlupa City.
During Duterte's first months in office, he accused De Lima of being the "highest government official" involved in the drug proliferation inside the national penitentiary.
De Lima has maintained her innocence and called herself a victim of the current administration's "political persecution." (SunStar Philippines)