Leila de Lima

Rights groups, int’l community celebrate after court grants De Lima bail

James Patrick Cruz

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Rights groups, int’l community celebrate after court grants De Lima bail

PROTEST. Supporters of former senator Leila de Lima hold placards calling for justice as the top critic of ex-president Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice for a hearing on drug charges, on June 5, 2023.

Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

(2nd UPDATE) Despite the grant of bail to former senator Leila de Lima, human rights groups say that the battle is far from over

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights and civil society groups welcomed the decision of a Muntinlupa City Trial Court to allow former senator Leila de Lima to post bail after nearly seven years in detention.

“The court’s granting of Leila de Lima’s bail application is indeed a welcome development. Allowing her temporary liberty should be a step toward justice for Leila, beginning with the dismissal of this last charge against her,” Amnesty International Philippines section director Butch Olano said on Monday, November 13.

“Senator De Lima’s anticipated release is not merely the unlocking of a prison cell but the opening of a gateway to renewed hope, where the echoes of justice resonate beyond the confines of imprisonment, reverberating through our country’s collective conscience,” Akbayan President Rafaela David said.

For his part, Bayan Muna executive vice president Carlos Zarate said, “It is still a truism that justice can still prevail in the end; it cannot be delayed despite the machinations of the dark forces behind her unjust incarceration.”

The Movement Against Disinformation, Incorporated said the ruling “reaffirms our confidence in the legal system but also underscores the fundamental principles of fairness, equity, and the rule of law.”

The  Ateneo Human Rights Center said in a statement, “De Lima’s story inspires all of us to have hope…and to stand against abuse of power and rally for truth, justice, and accountability. In due time, accountability will catch up with all wrongdoers.”

Women’s rights group Lilak, meanwhile, celebrated De Lima’s “courage and her determination to fight for truth and justice.”

The international community also welcomed De Lima’s release.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron and British Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils said that De Lima’s release is a significant step for the rule of law in the Philippines. They expressed hope that the resolution of the remaining charges would speed up the resolution of De Lima’s pending case.

As the case progressed, the Canadian embassy and US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson committed to closely monitoring her situation, expecting a swift resolution of the proceedings against her.

The Parliament of the European Union and some United Nations experts have been calling for the release and dismissal of the “politically motivated” cases against her.

French Ambassador to the Philippines Marie Fontaniel said on X: “For us in France, November 13 is painful, remembering the atrocities of terrorist attacks 2015. But for once a November 13 is synonym of excellent news: Freedom for Leila de Lima.

“We will continue following the case. But at least tonight, November 13, 2023, rhymes with hope,” she added.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Thursday, November 16: “France welcomes with relief Leila de Lima’s release on bail on November 13. The lawyer and human rights activist had been jailed for more than six years.”

“France will continue to closely monitor court proceedings and calls for a swift resolution of the situation in accordance with legal procedures and Philippine law,” it added.

‘Battle is far from over’

Despite the bail being granted, groups said that the battle is far from over. They demand accountability from former president Rodrigo Duterte. In his first year in office, Duterte assured his fiercest critic, Senator Leila de Lima, that she would be put behind bars.

“Today, justice prevails, but the pursuit of truth, justice and accountability continues. Senator De Lima will soon be free, but the battle is far from over. The individual most accountable for this grave injustice must be held responsible,” David said.

“Duterte and his minions must face the consequences of their actions. We must complete the circle of justice and jail Duterte,” she added.

Karapatan‘s Secretary General Tinay Palabay, likewise, said that Duterte, along with those who conspired to bring such patently false charges against De Lima, should be held accountable, highlighting the similar situation of around 800 political prisoners in the Philippines

Akbayan also urged the Marcos administration to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court which is investigating Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

De Lima previously chaired the Commission on Human Rights and investigated extrajudicial killings allegedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad in Davao City, reportedly under the orders of then-mayor Duterte.

De Lima also served as justice secretary under the late former president Benigno Aquino III.

The government data indicates that at least 6,252 people were killed in police operations, and if the victims of extrajudicial killings are considered, the estimated death toll would rise from 27,000 to 30,000. – Rappler.com

TIMELINE: Leila de Lima in detention

TIMELINE: Leila de Lima in detention

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James Patrick Cruz

Patrick Cruz is a researcher and writer for Rappler’s governance cluster. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, he covered local governments focusing on Metro Manila.