Leila de Lima

6 years in detention, De Lima in high spirits: ‘Vindication is forthcoming’

Jairo Bolledo

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6 years in detention, De Lima in high spirits: ‘Vindication is forthcoming’

APPEARANCE. Former senator Leila de Lima attends the continuation of hearing of the remaining drug charges against her on February 10, 2023.

'Alam naman natin na ito ang pinakamahal na gawa-gawang kaso at pinakamalaking frame-up sa history ng Pilipinas,' says Dino de Leon, one of De Lima's lawyers

MANILA, Philippines – Six years in detention, former senator Leila de Lima remains in high spirits because she knows her “vindication is forthcoming.”

So, given all these recantations na, mataas ang morale ni [former] senator Leila de Lima kasi alam niya that her vindication is forthcoming because to begin with, alam naman natin na ito ang pinakamahal na gawa-gawang kaso at pinakamalaking frame-up sa history ng Pilipinas,” lawyer Dino de Leon, spokesperson and one of De Lima’s lawyers, said during a Rappler Talk interview on Thursday, February 23.

(So, given all these recantations, former senator Leila de Lima’s morale is high because she knows her vindication is forthcoming because to begin with, we know that this is one of the most expensive trumped-up charges and the biggest frame-up in Philippine history.)

6 years in detention, De Lima in high spirits: ‘Vindication is forthcoming’

On February 24, the former justice secretary and human rights commission chair marked her sixth year in detention for drug-related charges filed against her during the administration of then-president Rodrigo Duterte. She was accused of enabling the drug trade in the national penitentiary to allegedly fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.

So far, De Lima has been acquitted in one of three drug-related cases. Key witnesses against her, like self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, have already recanted their statements linking her to the drug trade.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla has said he will not object if De Lima files a habeas corpus petition for her temporary release. (READ: How the SC ruling on Gigi Reyes’ release changes the game on habeas corpus)

De Leon also said they are confident that things will go well for his client as the evidence presented in her cases are “fake and imaginary.”

“Ang lagi naming sinasabi ‘the arc of the moral universe may be long but it bends towards justice,’ at sana sa lalong madaling panahon makamit na yung totoong hustisya,” he said.

(We always say ‘the arc of the moral universe may be long but it bends towards justice,’ and hopefully true justice will soon be achieved.)

International support

De Leon said De Lima also appreciates the support she’s been getting from the international community.

Well, nagagalak si former senator Leila de Lima sa lahat ng pag bisita sa kanya…So nakikita ni senator Leila de Lima ito, nagagalak siya na hindi siya nakakalimutan ng mundo at hindi rin siya nakakalimutan ng sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.

(Well, former senator Leila de Lima is happy for these visits. She’s happy that the world and the Filipino people still remember her.)

On Thursday, lawmakers from the European Union paid a visit to De Lima. They also raised the former lawmaker’s case during their conversation with Remulla on the same day. United States lawmakers led by Democratic Senator Edward Markey also met with De Lima in August last year.

‘Weaponizing’ the law

When asked how confident they are that De Lima would be freed, De Leon said they have been confident “since day one.” Unfortunately, the former administration “weaponized” the law.

Kung ang usapan lang dito ay confidence, since day one confident kami. Confident si former senator Leila de Lima because inosente siya at alam namin na wala silang mapoproduce na kahit ano’ng ebidensya. Pero unfortunately, hindi lang kasi ‘yong confidence namin ang importante dito eh, ang ginawa kasi ng nakaraang administrasyon eh binaboy nila ang hustisya, pinaglaruan nila ang justice system,” De Leon explained.

(If we’re talking about confidence, we have been confident since day one. Former senator Leila de Lima has been confident because she’s innocent and she knows there’s no evidence that can be produced against her. But unfortunately, we’re not just talking about our confidence here, what the former administration did was to tarnish justice, they messed up the justice system.)

Ragos, in his testimony, said he was forced to invent the story against De Lima “upon the instructions of Secretary [Vitaliano] Aguirre” – Duterte’s justice chief. Other officials were also allegedly pressured to pin down De Lima. – With a report from Marco Luis Beech/ Rappler.com

Marco Luis Beech is a Rappler intern. Learn more about Rappler’s internship prograhere.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.