Senate of the Philippines

As opposition lawmakers celebrate De Lima’s bail, calls for accountability remain

Kaycee Valmonte

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As opposition lawmakers celebrate De Lima’s bail, calls for accountability remain

DE LIMA. Former senator Leila de Lima arrives at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court to attend the hearing on the remaining drug case filed against her, on November 13, 2023.

Rappler

'While we acknowledge the granting of bail as a positive development, it is crucial not to lose sight of the larger goal – the full exoneration of senator De Lima and the release of all political prisoners,' says Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers on Monday, November 13, celebrated the granting of bail to former senator Leila de Lima, who was among the staunchest critics of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.

“Her release from prison through bail is the beginning of the end to this shameful episode in our democracy,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement following De Lima’s release.

Ang nakakalungkot at nakakagalit, hindi na mababawi ang maraming taon na ninakaw at ipinagkait kay dating senadora De Lima dahil lamang sa kasinungalingan ng iilan,” Hontiveros added.

(What is sad and infuriating is that she cannot get back the many years that were stolen and taken away from former senator De Lima just because of the lies told by some people.)

At the House of Representatives, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas said that while the granting of bail was a “positive development, it is crucial not to lose sight of the larger goal – the full exoneration of senator De Lima and the release of all political prisoners.”

De Lima’s freedom comes nearly seven years – or 2,453 days, as Liberal Party president and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman noted – since being detained on February 24, 2017. (READ: TIMELINE: De Lima in detention)

In her last months behind bars, witnesses recanted their allegations against the former lawmaker, with the latest being just last October by ex-cop Rodolfo Magleo and police asset Nonilo Arile.

Alleged Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa in April 2022 also recanted his statements and said he was “coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened” to make accusations against De Lima. This was followed by ex-corrections chief Rafael Ragos’ confession that he, too, was forced to lie.

‘Justice redeemed’

Former Bayan Muna congressmen Carlos Zarate and Neri Colmenares both lauded De Lima in separate statements, with Zarate saying she may be a “fierce adversary” for those who enabled impunity in the Philippines, while Colmenares pointed to her as an “inspiration to victims of human rights violations” as justice will eventually come around.

In his own statement, Lagman said, “Although justice delayed is justice denied, justice finally secured is still justice redeemed.”

Lawmakers and supporters here and abroad have repeatedly called for her release throughout the years.

Many viewed her imprisonment as being politically motivated for going after reports of human rights violations that resulted from the former chief executive’s drug war.

“Her long detention was an injustice, and we hope that those behind her unjust incarceration would be the ones who would be jailed in the near future,” ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said in a separate statement.

Despite De Lima now being out on bail, calls to hold accountable those responsible for her and many other political prisoners’ incarceration remained.

“We will continue to stand in solidarity with senator De Lima and all those who have been unjustly persecuted for their dedication to upholding human rights and defending the marginalized and oppressed,” Brosas said.

Meanwhile, the Kabataan Partylist challenged the Department of Justice to kickstart investigations into the possible liability Duterte may have to victims of his war on drugs. Since he is no longer president, Duterte is no longer immune from suit. – Rappler.com

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