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MANILA, Philippines – Moments after hearing that the court had granted her bail, former senator Leila de Lima exclaimed, “Freedom,” her brother Vicboy said.
A jubilant De Lima, while exiting the hall of justice, also mentioned President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration, thanking the President for “respecting” the court’s independence.
“Gusto ko pong pasalamatan ang BBM (Bongbong Marcos) administration for respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Sa inyo pong lahat na naniwala po sa akin, maraming, maraming salamat po. Hindi ‘nyo ako pinabayaan, ‘pinaglaban ‘nyo po ako dahil ipinaglalaban ko kayo palagi,” De Lima said.
(I would like to thank the BBM administration for respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. For all who believed in me, thank you so much. You did not let me down, you fought for me because I always fought for you.)
The former lawmaker is expected to be released soon after Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 206 Presiding Judge Gener Gito granted De Lima bail. The judge said in his decision that De Lima and her co-accused should be allowed to post bail “as the prosecution was not able to discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong.”
De Lima and her co-accused were asked to post bail amounting to P300,000 each.
In a presser, Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said De Lima’s granting of bail shows the judiciary’s “independence.”
“It just shows the independence of the judiciary, [which] what I’ve always been saying from the beginning and that they are free to decide as they please, as they deem fit. And it just shows that democracy is alive and well in our country,” Remulla said.
Will the prosecution appeal De Lima’s bail? Remulla responded: “I call it prosecutorial independence. I do not interfere with the prosecution especially [in] these matters. We follow the principle of institutional continuity, the moment we stepped into office. We respect the findings of the previous prosecutors.”
The three drug charges filed against De Lima were lodged during the time of former president Rodrigo Duterte. A staunch critic of Duterte and his drug war, De Lima was accused of allegedly enabling the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary supposedly to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.
Message of support
In a message posted on her X account (formerly Twitter), former vice president Leni Robredo, De Lima’s ally, said De Lima’s latest legal victory proved that the allegations against the former senator are baseless. Robredo added that the harassment against De Lima was the fruit of her fight for the truth.
“Through all these years, Sen. Leila has been a source of inspiration for us. Her courage and her faith lent so many of us the resolve to continue fighting the good fight, to speak truth to power, and to keep believing that the Filipino people deserve so much more,” Robredo said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, in a statement, expressed her joy over De Lima’s impending release, but noted that the years lost in prison can no longer be retrieved.
“Her release from prison through bail is the beginning of the end to this shameful episode in our democracy. I thank all the lawyers, advocates and ordinary Filipinos who have lent their voices and support to #FreeLeila, everyone who did not stand idly by – you all remind this country of the very essence of democracy,” Hontiveros said. “Now and always, justice will prevail.”
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, meanwhile, said he hopes that De Lima would be freed entirely, and those behind her persecution would be punished. – Rappler.com