Immediate release, not transfer of detention, for Leila de Lima after hostage-taking incident

Media Quote

Responding to news that prisoner of conscience and former Senator Leila de Lima was held hostage on 9 October inside her detention cell at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center, Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines Director said:

“It is deeply alarming that human rights defender and former Senator Leila de Lima was held hostage by another detainee inside no less than the headquarters of the Philippine National Police. That she has had to endure this traumatizing and frightening experience on top of being arbitrarily detained for over five years now is the height of outrage, negligence and injustice.

“The Philippine government must thoroughly and impartially investigate this incident – especially as Leila has been the subject of vicious attacks and political persecution in the last five years – and ensure that this never happens again. It is the government’s obligation to ensure the safety and security of Leila, and of all detainees while in detention.

“We reiterate that the charges against Leila are fabricated, and all evidence against her is manufactured. She should not have been detained in the first place. Her immediate release is the least that the Marcos administration could do to rectify her situation. Anything less – including President Marcos’ offer to transfer her to a different detention facility – is a perpetuation of this grave injustice against her.”


On 9 October, prisoner of conscience and former Senator Leila de Lima was held hostage inside her detention cell at the PNP Custodial Center by an armed detainee as he attempted to escape. The PNP later said in a statement that the suspect was killed, along with two other detainees who also tried to escape. The three detainees killed were accused of being members of terrorist groups.

In a statement after the incident, Leila said she did not imagine being subjected to a hostage-taking incident while in “unjust detention”. She said she was “trying to recover psychologically and emotionally from this harrowing experience,” adding that she was experiencing “lingering pain” in her chest where the hostage-taker “constantly pressed the point of his knife.”

Leila was one of the staunchest critics of the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte. She was arrested on 24 February 2017 after she attempted to investigate abuses committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs”, which has resulted in the extrajudicial execution of thousands of suspected drug offenders and other human rights violations. She was acquitted of one drug-related charge in February 2021; she remains detained over two more charges.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has offered to transfer Leila to a different detention facility, which she has declined.

For more information please contact: [email protected] or [email protected] for the Philippine Section.