PNP denies VIP visitors as De Lima turns 63 in jail

6:48 pm on 28 August 2022, Sunday

By Caryl Gonzales

As former Leila de Lima celebrated her 63rd birthday, her 6th time celebrating in detention, on Saturday at Camp Crame in Quezon City, the Philippine National Police (PNP) denied leaders, former and current lawmakers, justices, lawyers, academics, and bureaucrats from visiting and personally greeting her.

A week after barring entry to five US lawmakers on August 18 until they obtained court orders allowing them to meet De Lima the following day, another group led by former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman was denied entry to the PNP Custodial Center.

Also, former Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, lawyer and Constitution framer Christian Monsod and his wife, economics professor Solita Monsod, former Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and former Presidential Management Staff Secretary Julia Abad were all refused entry.

Only De Lima’s immediate family was permitted to visit her, according to Vicboy De Lima, De Lima’s brother.

But as of Saturday afternoon, the PNP leadership remained silent on why the visitors of De Lima were being sent away.

Lagman, a Liberal Party (LP) stalwart, claims that the group was only informed the following day that the visitation request had been denied. 

He even called it an “unreasonable” prohibition on De Lima from seeing her ‘closest friends and ardent defenders’ on her birthday.

“We hope that this would be the last time Sen. De Lima will have her birthday in prison because every birthday in odious captivity is grossly tragic and an utter disaster for Philippine democracy and the rule of law,” Lagman said.

Although PNP bars them from visiting, her friends share their birthday greetings and messages of support during the online gathering organized by EveryWoman to celebrate her birthday.

“Today is an occasion which is supposed to be truly a most happy event, her 63rd birthday. But sadly, today, thoughts of her fills us with sorrow and anger. Sorrow and anger because Sen. Leila is today’s pending 6th birthday in jail. Sixth birthday, isipin nyo yun, andami nang nangyari. At galit tayo kasi alam natin, hindi naman dapat nakulong si Sen. Leila,” former peace adviser and chair and convenor of EveryWoman Ging Deles said.

De Lima was imprisoned during the previous Duterte administration for allegedly taking bribes linked to illegal drugs. She has been detained for five years at PNP Custodial Center.


PNP justification for barring visitors 

Police Col. Mark Pespes, director of PNP-Headquarters Support Service, said the request letter of the political personalities and other guests fell short of the 10 working days needed to process any request for visit based on the PNP Memorandum Circular 2018-027.

Paragraph 6 of the memorandum states that "Visits to PUPC (Person Under Police Custody) by any person may be allowed only upon their submission of a written request at least ten working days prior to the intended date of visit subject to the approval of the Chief, PNP for foreign requests or the Regional Director for local requests.”

Based on records, the PNP Custodial Center received the letter requesting to allow other visitors on her birthday on the evening of August 22—just four days shy of the planned visit on August 27.

“We don’t deprive our PUPC of their constitutional right to be granted the opportunity to be visited but it should be within the bounds of PNP Memorandum Circular 2018-027,” said Pespes.

"We treat all PUPCs equally and no one is exempt from this policy. Any request for visitation is evaluated thoroughly and will usually take a process which needs ample time before it finally gets approved if ever no complications are observed,” Pespes said," he added.

He said NP, through the Custodial Service Unit, communicated to Sen. De Lima informally in the evening of August 26 and through a letter on August 27, 2022 that said the request was immediately processed but did not reach approval.

"The Senator is aware that her request fell short of the required number of days stated in the memo, but still the PNP Headquarters and Support Service made earnest efforts to process the request.  However, hindi talaga naihabol ang approval," he said.


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