Leila de Lima

If elected president, what would candidates do with De Lima’s case?

Lorenz Pasion
If elected president, what would candidates do with De Lima’s case?
Presidential candidates have different plans for the opposition senator, who has been in jail for five years

MANILA, Philippines – Different sectors have drummed up calls to free jailed reelectionist opposition senator Leila de Lima after the government’s two key witnesses against her – detained alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and former corrections chief Rafael Ragos – retracted their accusations against her.

In her detention, De Lima is not allowed to have a television, a telephone, and access to the internet. She wasn’t allowed to attend her son’s law school graduation nor visit her ailing mother. She is not allowed to remotely participate in Senate sessions, and prevented from campaigning.

“Any and all statements given during the Senate hearings, or in the form of sworn written affidavits, against Senator Leila De Lima are not true,” said Espinosa in a counter-affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday, April 28.

“I now hereby declare and make known to the whole world that there is no truth whatsoever to any of these affidavits or House and court testimonies, or any other statement made in the media or other investigative proceedings, including the Senate and the Department of Justice, on the delivery of monies to Secretary De Lima or Ronnie Dayan in whatever amount,” Ragos said in a sworn affidavit dated April 30.

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Before these retraction by witnesses, some presidential bets were asked during the second Commission on Elections (Comelec) presidential debates on April 3 what they would to share their take on De Lima’s case . 

Other presidential candidates also gave their stance on De Lima’s case on several occasions and in interviews. 

From freeing the detained senator to allowing the due process to work on her case, here’s what the presidential candidates have said.

Leody de Guzman

Labor leader Leody de Guzman have been very vocal about his stance on De Lima’s arrest, calling for her release.

“Dapat palayain si Senator De Lima. Ang naganap sa kanyang pagpapakulong ay benggansa ni Duterte dahil sa kanyang pag-iimbestiga sa [mga patayan sa] Davao. At ’yan ay isang katangian ng pangulo natin ngayon – na pagka bumabatikos sa kanya ay kaniyang ipinapakulong, ay kaniyang titirahin,” De Guzman said.

(Senator De Lima should be freed. Her detention was Duterte’s revenge on her after she conducted an investigation into Davao [killings]. It’s one of our president’s characteristics – he jails, he attacks, whoever criticizes him.)

In October 2021, De Guzman said De Lima was the exact image of “political persecution” by Duterte.

Ping Lacson

In a GMA News report, Senator Ping Lacson said that only the courts could order the release of a person deprived of liberty (PDL). This is after a human rights group called on presidential candidates to drop the charges against De Lima.

“Hindi puwedeng palayain ng pangulo ang isang nakakulong dahil sa warrant of arrest. Korte lang ang puwedeng magpalaya sa kanya either by granting bail or acquitting,” Lacson said after his Batangas sortie. 

(The president cannot release a person who is jailed on the basis of a warrant of arrest. Only the courts can grant freedom in cases like that, either by granting bail or acquitting [the accused].)

Isko Moreno

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said in the debate that De Lima should be given a chance to exercise her rights and deserves to have a day in court. 

“Senator Leila de Lima deserves to have a day in court and ma-practice niya ‘yong kaniyang karapatan. Lahat ng uri ng pagtatanggol sa sarili dapat magamit ‘to ni Senator Leila de Lima,” he said.

(Senator Leila de Lima deserves to have a day in court and exercise her rights. All of the mechanisms for her to defend herself should be made available to Senator Leila de Lima.)

“And I guarantee you, Senator Leila de Lima, under my watch, she will have it.”

Manny Pacquiao

Senator Manny Pacquiao said De Lima’s case should go through due process.

“Pero mahirap naman po ‘yon kung hindi idadaan sa due process. Parang hindi natin nirerepesto iyong Constitution natin. Pabilisin ‘yong trial para makalabas na siya kung wala siyang kasalanan, at kung may kasalanan siya eh ‘di mahahatulan siya ng sentensiya, at saka mahatulan siya,” Pacquiao said.

(But it will be problematic if it will not go through due process. It’s like we’re not respecting our Constitution. She should be given a speedy trial so she can be freed if she’s innocent, and if she is guilty, she would be sentenced.)

Leni Robredo

Vice President Leni Robredo said in a video message for De Lima’s 5th year in detention that she and her camp would continue to insist on the truth that the opposition senator is innocent. 

“Patuloy naming igigiit ang katotohanang inosente ka, na isang kalapastangan sa mga Pilipinong naniniwala sa iyo ang ginawang pagkulong sa iyo.”

(We will continue to insist on the truth that you are innocent, that your detention is an affront to the Filipinos who believe in you.)

De Lima has been in jail for the past five years. She has been acquitted in one of three cases against her.

She is seeking reelection as part of Robredo’s senatorial slate. – Rappler.com