Fact checks on public officials

FACT CHECK: Leila de Lima’s office operational even when she was in prison


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FACT CHECK: Leila de Lima’s office operational even when she was in prison
De Lima served five of her six-year Senate term behind bars, and her office continued operations and incurred administrative expenses

Claim: Former senator Leila De Lima spent P97 million in 2020 while she was still in prison over drug trade charges.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was posted on X (formerly Twitter) on November 13 by an account with 3,231 followers. As of writing, it has 34,300 views, 364 likes, and 151 reposts.

The post said: “Leila De Lima spent a whopping P97 million sa Senate while nakakulong.

(Leila de Lima spent a whopping P97 million in the Senate while imprisoned.)

The post was uploaded following De Lima’s release on bail after over six years in prison over alleged drug trade charges.

The bottom line: The post implies that the former senator spent the amount herself, but the Commission on Audit (COA) document it cited shows itemized expenses from De Lima’s office, which remained operational even while the senator was imprisoned.

Ongoing operations: De Lima was elected senator in 2016 but served five years of her six-year term behind bars. During her time in the 18th Congress, she authored 52 bills and 22 resolutions and co-authored three bills and five resolutions. While she was unable to participate in plenary sessions and Senate debates, De Lima said she “regularly worked on filing bills and resolutions and pushed for the passage of several bills into laws” despite her “unjust detention.”

Financial transparency: The 2020 COA document shows expenses incurred by her office for operational expenses, such as travel costs for staff, staff salaries and benefits, meetings and conferences, and rental of motor vehicles and equipment, among others. 

Contrary to the post’s implication that De Lima misused her office’s budget, the former senator’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth filings from 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 show that her net worth has not exceeded P10 million since her imprisonment in 2017.

Imprisoned: De Lima was arrested in 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade – accusations, which she said, were related to her standing up to former president Rodrigo Duterte. 

The former senator was one of the strongest critics of the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.

Of the three charges filed against her, two were eventually dismissed. On November 13, after close to seven years, De Lima was released on bail on the last case against her. (READ: TIMELINE: Leila de Lima in detention)

Rappler has published several fact-checks about De Lima during her time in jail:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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