Responding to news that a Muntinlupa court denied on 7 June former Senator Leila de Lima’s application for bail in the third and last drug-related case against her, Amnesty International Philippines Director Butch Olano said:
“We are deeply disappointed that a court today denied prisoner of conscience Leila de Lima’s bail application. Since her detention in 2017, the cases against her have been clearly fabricated and used to arbitrarily detain her. Similar to the two previously dismissed cases, this last case against her must be quashed. We call for a speedy and fair resolution of this case despite bail being denied.”
“Leila has endured all sorts of suffering in the last six years of her arbitrary detention, including threats to her life when she was held hostage in 2022. The denial of her bail application today is a continuation of the persecution and terrible injustice against her that started under the former Duterte administration.
“Leila is a brave human rights defender, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her freedom of expression. She shouldn’t have spent even a single day in jail in the first place. The Marcos administration must urgently free her and hold to account those responsible for violating her rights.”
A Muntinlupa court on 7 June denied prisoner of conscience and former Senator Leila de Lima’s application for bail for the last of the drug-related cases she has been facing since 2017. Before this, on 12 May, another Muntinlupa court acquitted her in another case for allegedly conspiring to commit trade of illegal drugs. Despite being previously acquitted in two of three cases, de Lima will remain in detention following the denial of her application in this third case.
De Lima has been detained at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police since her arrest on 24 February 2017 on drug-related charges. As a human rights activist and former Senator, she has been one of the staunchest critics of the human rights violations under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte. Since her arrest, Amnesty International, alongside many other domestic and international organizations, has repeatedly said that the charges against her were fabricated and that the testimonies by witnesses against her were manufactured.
The authorities arrested de Lima after she sought to investigate violations committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” under the former Duterte administration, including the extrajudicial execution of thousands of people suspected of using or selling drugs, which Amnesty has said may amount to crimes against humanity. As in the case of de Lima, there has been almost no justice or accountability for the victims of these abuses and their families.
Court proceedings against de Lima in the last six years have been marked by undue delays, including the repeated failure of prosecution witnesses to appear in court and changes in judges handling the cases against her. In 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of de Lima was arbitrary because of the lack of legal basis and the non-observance of international norms relating to the right to a fair trial.
The arbitrary detention of de Lima reflects the broader context of increasing impunity for human rights violations in the country. These violations include killings, threats and harassment of political activists, human rights defenders, members of the media and other targeted groups. Recent similar cases have also been recorded during the Marcos administration, including the October 2022 murder of journalist Percy Lapid and the killing of two activists in Negros province in November 2022.