Responding to news that the court granted former Senator Leila de Lima’s application for bail for the third and last drug-related charge against her, Amnesty International Philippines Section Director Butch Olano said:
“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.
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.Butch Olano, Section Director
“Leila has been detained for nearly seven long years, during which she was subjected to verbal and even physical attacks. We have repeatedly said that she should not have been imprisoned in the first place. Evidence, including various witnesses retracting their statements implicating her in the illegal drug trade, shows that the charges were fabricated.
“Leila has been targeted by the government for her criticism of the murderous ‘war on drugs’ and other human rights violations. She should have never spent even a single day in detention. This last remaining drug case against her must be dismissed expeditiously, and those behind her arbitrary detention and other violations of her human rights must be brought to justice.
“We also call on the Marcos administration to ensure her safety as she regains temporary freedom. It must be recalled that her life was threatened when she was taken hostage in 2022 at her detention cell inside no less than the police headquarters. The government must now guarantee her safety, security and protection as she remains the target of vilification and threats.”
On 13 November 2023, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 allowed human rights defender and former senator Leila de Lima temporary liberty as it granted her bail application for the third and last drug-related case against her, with the bail amounting to PhP 300,000 (USD 5,349). In this last case, she is accused of allegedly tolerating the “widespread drug trade” inside the National Bilibid Prison’s maximum security compound.
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.