Former Philippine senator Leila de Lima was granted bail by a regional trial court on Monday, ending her detention of over six years on drug charges. The charges, which de Lima claims were fabricated to suppress her investigations into then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown, have drawn international criticism for their political motivations.
De Lima’s release from jail, on a 300,000-peso (US$5,390) bail, follows the dismissal of two of the three non-bailable drug cases against her. Her freedom was met with jubilation by supporters outside the court in Muntinlupa city. Expressing her gratitude, de Lima described her release as a rebirth of the life that was attempted to be destroyed.
International bodies, including the European Union Parliament, some American lawmakers, and United Nations human rights experts, have long advocated for de Lima’s release, denouncing it as political persecution and a blow to Philippine democracy. The U.S. State Department echoed these sentiments, urging the Philippines to handle the remaining case in alignment with its human rights obligations.
EU Ambassador Luc Veron hailed de Lima’s release as a significant step for the rule of law in the Philippines, emphasizing the need for a swift resolution of the remaining charges.
De Lima’s case has been a focal point of controversy since her 2017 arrest. As a vocal critic of Duterte’s drug war, she faced charges largely based on testimonies from imprisoned drug lords, which she and her supporters have consistently denounced as politically motivated.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has welcomed the court’s decision to grant de Lima bail, calling for the dismissal of the remaining fabricated drug case against her. Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, stated, “De Lima should have never been in detention in the first place. Her fearless search for truth and justice is not a crime.” The organization also demands accountability for those responsible for de Lima’s unjust detention and the coercion of witnesses.
De Lima’s ordeal has been marked by her resilience and continued advocacy for human rights. Despite her isolation in detention, she remained active in issuing statements and criticisms against Duterte’s governance.
While her release marks a triumph for her supporters and human rights advocates, it also highlights the ongoing struggle for justice and accountability in the Philippines.