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FORUM-ASIA celebrates Leila de Lima’s acquittal and calls for accountability for her arbitrary detention.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) celebrates the acquittal of former Senator Leila de Lima, urging accountability for her arbitrary detention. De Lima, a prominent human rights advocate, faced politically motivated charges as retribution for investigating extrajudicial killings.



The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) celebrates the acquittal of former Senator Leila de Lima, who also served as Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and Secretary of the Department of Justice, in the final politically motivated charge against her.

On 24 June 2024, the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court acquitted De Lima of the last of three drug-related charges made against her during the Rodrigo Duterte presidency. The court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, supporting De Lima’s motion claiming insufficient evidence for a conviction.

“FORUM-ASIA is pleased to witness the achievement of justice for Leila de Lima, demonstrating that justice is founded on truth and evidence. We demand accountability for those responsible for De Lima’s arbitrary detention and the perpetuation of unfounded allegations against her,” said Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

De Lima, a prominent Filipino lawyer, human rights activist, and politician, served as the Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and later as the Secretary of the Department of Justice.

As a senator, De Lima was known for her vocal opposition to the extrajudicial killings associated with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Her investigations into human rights abuses made her a target of politically motivated charges, leading to her detention in February 2017.

Despite her imprisonment, De Lima continued to advocate for human rights and justice, gaining international recognition for her courage and resilience.

Politically Motivated Charges

Despite a lack of credible evidence, De Lima was detained in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on criminal charges for allegedly facilitating drug trafficking in the National Bilibid Prison during her tenure as justice minister–from 2010 to 2015–to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.

She faced three fabricated drug-related charges. In November 2023, De Lima was acquitted of two charges and granted temporary freedom after six years in detention.

From the outset, civil society emphasised that the politically motivated and trumped-up charges against De Lima were retribution for her investigations–as head of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights–on extrajudicial killings during Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

Previously, as chair of the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima also investigated the “Davao death squad” during Duterte’s term as mayor.

The dismissal of all charges against De Lima repudiates the Duterte administration’s hostile attempts to suppress her human rights advocacy.

FORUM-ASIA, a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia, calls on the Philippine Government to allow and facilitate the International Criminal Court to thoroughly investigate the crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Duterte’s presidency.

“Investigating human rights violations, speaking and honouring the truth, and holding perpetrators to account are essential to safeguarding people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” Bacalso added.

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