Opposition senators say De Lima in solitary confinement, call 'incommunicado' detention illegal

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 08:52 PM | Updated as of May 28 2020 09:18 PM

Embatled Senator Leila de Lima is escorted by guards as she attends her hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on Friday, June 22, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File


MANILA (UPDATE) – Opposition senators on Thursday bared that Sen. Leila de Lima was in solitary confinement at Camp Crame, sending a complaint to the police chief as they called such detention illegal. 

De Lima has not been allowed to receive visitors and hold physical meetings since April 25, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said in a letter addressed to the Philippine National Police (PNP) dated May 23.

Incommunicado detention or solitary confinement is prohibited under Article III, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “secret detention places, solitary incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited,” they said.

“This action of the PNP Custodial Center is unconstitutional, illegal, and violates a cardinal precept of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that solitary confinement and incommunicado detention are universally outlawed,” the senators added.

De Lima has requested to PNP chief Archie Gamboa to lift the restrictions, but was reportedly denied due to lockdown rules.

Sought for comment, PNP spokesperson Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the police force had temporarily prohibited visits for all detainees in police camps under stricter lockdown rules.

"Visits are temporarily restricted under ECQ/MECQ (enhanced community quarantine/modified enhanced community quarantine) as part of biosafety measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 inside PNP camps and police stations," he told ABS-CBN News.

"If NCR (National Capital Region) will be placed under GCQ (general community quarantine), restrictions will ease up as PNP frontline services (FEO, SOSIA and HPG MVCO) may start to open to public but on a limited capacity, strictly following social distancing and contact tracing rules," he added.

He was referring to the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office, Supervisory Office on Security and Investigation Agencies, and the Highway Patrol Group's Motor Vehicle Clearance Office, with deal with license, accreditation and clearance applications from the public. 

De Lima, a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's centerpiece policy against illegal drugs, has been detained since Feb. 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords at the New Bilibid Prison when she was still justice secretary. 

She had denied wrongdoing, blasting her detention as political persecution.

Earlier, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Corrections suspended visits in detention and prison facilities because of the coronavirus outbreak.