"This incommunicado detention of the senator is illegal under Philippine and international law."
Yesterday, June 5, Atty. Chel Diokno, one of the legal counsels of Senator Lelia De Lima, who was with Catholic priest Fr. Flavie Villanueva and De Lima’s chief of staff Atty. Fhillip Sawali, was barred from visiting the senator earlier at the Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
This confirms the incommunicado detention of De Lima, a gross violation of her Constitutional rights as well as international human rights principles against unreasonable restrictions on the right of meaningful contact with the outside world.
This illegal action of the PNP started last 25 April when the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center, where Senator de Lima has been illegally detained for three years and a quarter now, began enforcing a no-visitor policy supposedly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the personnel and detainees in the said facility.
Obviously, there is a need to take precautions for health reasons, but it has been pointed out that physical distancing is not a problem at the PNP Custodial Center given its current setup, which is markedly different from jails and prisons. However, requests for flexibility of the no-visitor policy have been repeatedly denied by the authorities. This is unfortunate because Senator de Lima is a working senator who can only work or perform her mandate while at the PNP Custodial Center and not in her Senate office. Thus, her assisting staffers need to have regular access with the senator within allowable visiting hours.
In the beginning, PNP officials initially allowed the senator to talk over the phone with her executive assistant. But in the month of May, even this was severely restricted because of a requirement for a prior written request, subject to the approval by no less than the PNP Chief. This is absurd, considering that in other jails “electronic visits” or “e-dalaw” are allowed for relatives and lawyers of detainees.
Let me be very clear. This incommunicado detention of Senator De Lima is illegal under Philippine and international law.
Article III, Section 12 (2) of the 1987 Constitution is clear and unequivocal: “Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.”
Under international law, The Mandela Rules, which is the United Nations. Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, is relevant. it provides:
Rule 43: 1. In no circumstances may restrictions or disciplinary sanctions amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The following practices, in particular, shall be prohibited: (a) Indefinite solitary confinement; (b) Prolonged solitary confinement...
Rule 44: For the purpose of these rules, solitary confinement shall refer to the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact. Prolonged solitary confinement shall refer to solitary confinement for a time period in excess of 15 consecutive days.
Rule 45: The prohibition of the use of solitary confinement and similar measures in cases involving women and children, as referred to in other United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice, continues to apply.
Incommunicado detention is also a psychological form of torture, which is outlawed by the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and is punishable under Republic Act No. 9745, or “The Philippines’ Anti-Torture Act of 2009.”
Both the 1987 Constitution and international law assures all accused persons of the right to counsel, which necessarily includes access to counsel. This was blatantly violated yesterday.
Last week, the Committee for the Freedom of Leila De Lima, of which I am a member, issued a statement entitled “Stop the Incommunicado Detention of Senator Leila de Lima!” We deplored the inhumane, unreasonable, and illegal restrictions on the living and work conditions of Senator de Lima as clearly a product of the ongoing political persecution against her. We said that the current pandemic has provided another opportunity for the Duterte government to further torment her in an attempt to break her will, pointing out her undiminished resolve in calling out the abuses and excesses of those in power is a matter of public record and general knowledge.
The Committee demanded the total lifting of the incommunicado restrictions imposed on Senator Leila de Lima, allowing her visits and personal meetings to facilitate her work as a lawmaker, and ensuring her right to reasonable contact with the world, particularly her entitlement to be visited by her family, lawyers, doctors and spiritual advisers.
We seek the accountability of government officials responsible for the incommunicado detention and psychological torment of Senator Leila de Lima.
Finally, we demand that Senator de Lima be immediately freed from illegal detention.
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