Leila de Lima

De Lima still hopes for justice on 5th Christmas in detention

Pia Ranada
De Lima still hopes for justice on 5th Christmas in detention

FIGHTING. Senator Leila de Lima attends a hearing at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court on February 23, 2021. Office of Senator De Lima

Senator Leila de Lima's office

The senator remains in detention on the last Christmas under the Duterte administration since she was arrested in February 2017

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima is not giving up on justice even as she spends her fifth Christmas detained in police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Bukod sa aking agarang paglaya at pagkakataong makapiling ang aking mga anak, apo, kapatid at inang may sakit, dalangin ko rin po ang paglaya ng bansa mula sa krisis, pagbangon mula sa mga nagdaang delubyo at pagpapanagot sa mga pinunong umabuso, nagpabaya at nagtraydor sa Pilipino,” she said in a statement sent to media on Saturday, December 25.

(Aside from my freedom and the chance to be with my children, grandchildren, siblings, and ailing mother, I pray for the country’s freedom from crisis, recovery from disasters, and accountability for abusive officials who abandoned and betrayed the Filipino.)

De Lima has been in detention since February 24, 2017, after Duterte unleashed a tirade of claims about her personal life and supposed links to the drug trade when she was justice secretary. Soon after, the House of Representatives, dominated by the President’s allies, held back-to-back hearings about these allegations. The hearings became the basis for a drug complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, also led by Duterte allies. The complaint led to De Lima’s arrest and detention.

Duterte targeted De Lima as she led a series of Senate hearings that looked into his controversial drug war and Duterte’s own links to death squads in Davao City during his term as mayor. The President now faces an International Criminal Court probe which has been paused following a request from the Duterte administration.

An affidavit submitted by an alleged Davao Death Squad hitman to the ICC corroborated findings and information collated by the Commission on Human Rights when it was led by De Lima. (Read Rappler’s investigative series on the affidavit of Arturo Lascañas here.)

Select family members of De Lima’s will be visiting her at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

The senator, who is seeking another another term in the 2022 elections, called on Filipinos to unify in order to weather crises and disasters. She thanked those who have been on the frontlines of the country’s most pressing challenges.

“Wholehearted thanks to all those who are at the forefront, devoting time, strength, and dedication to help their fellow man. You are coming together even if you – all of us – are experiencing hardships and challenges both as individuals and as families,” said De Lima in Filipino.

De Lima was acquitted of the first of her three conspiracy to commit drug trading charges back in February. The remaining two charges have largely to do with testimonies of two National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents – one of them Rafael Ragos, previously a co-accused in the case, but who was dropped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to use as a witness against the senator. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.