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Leading Filipina Critic of Duterte's Bloody Drug War Finally Free of All Charges After Years in Jail on Bogus Charges [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1215)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Justice for Leila de Lima has been a long time coming.

Philippines former Senator Leila de Lima is now a free woman. (Forum Asia)
Philippines former senator Leila de Lima, a leading critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous anti-drug campaign, is finally free of all the bogus charges brought against her by the Duterte government. She was arrested in February 2017 and faced three fabricated drug-related charges. She remained in jail until last November, when she was freed on bail on the final charge against her. The first and second charges against her had been dropped in 2021 and 2023, respectively, following recantations by key witnesses who said they'd been coerced into accusing the senator. This past Tuesday, Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 granted de Lima's motion to dismiss the case, clearing her of a final charge of conspiracy to commit drug trading.

De Lima, then a sitting senator, was charged by Filipino authorities after she moved to investigate human rights and other violations committed during Duterte's bloody war on drugs, a campaign that NGOs estimate left somewhere north of 30,000 people dead. International human rights groups such as Amnesty International have said the campaign may amount to crimes against humanity, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating Duterte over the killings and other human rights abuses.

The following year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that de Lima's arrest and imprisonment were indeed arbitrary, citing the lack of a legal basis for the charges and the Philippine government's failure to observe international norms demanding the right to a fair trial.

The court proceedings that dragged on for the last six years were plagued by undue delays, including changes in the judges handling her case. Prosecution witnesses repeatedly failed to appear in court, with some saying they had been threatened by government officials into making false statements about her. Amnesty International had designated her as a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for her legitimate human rights work.

The political persecution of de Lima reflects the broader context of increasing impunity for human rights violations in the country, not only under the Duterte administration but to a lesser degree, also under the administration of President Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos, Jr., son of a former dictator. Those violations include killings, threats, and harassment of political activists, human rights defenders, members of the media, and other targeted groups.

Amnesty International welcomed the closing of the final case against de Lima.

"This is full freedom and vindication, finally, for human rights defender Leila de Lima, after her nearly seven years of arbitrary detention, as well as relentless political persecution," said Montse Ferrer, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Research. "De Lima's acquittal in this last outstanding case is long overdue, and every day she spent in jail until her temporary release in November 2023 was a gross injustice. She was viciously targeted by the administration of former President Duterte solely for her efforts to expose human rights violations in the so-called 'war on drugs'. Today's dismissal of the last drug-related allegation against her is a clear rejection of concerted government efforts to silence her and undermine her human rights work."

But there is more work to be done, Ferrer said.

"As de Lima fully regains her freedom, we urge the administration of President Marcos to work towards ensuring an enabling environment for her and for many other human rights defenders in the Philippines who continue to be targeted because of their critical work," Ferrer said. "We also challenge the Marcos administration to impartially and effectively investigate those responsible for the unfounded allegations against de Lima that led to her arbitrary detention and the other human rights violations she has endured -- and continues to endure -- and bring them to justice in fair trials."

And the drug war killings have not stopped, the human rights group noted.

"The government must work towards what de Lima, Amnesty International, and many other human rights defenders have been tirelessly calling for: an end to the continuing unlawful killings and other violations in the 'war on drugs', accountability for the perpetrators, and justice for the thousands of victims and their families," Ferrer said.

Watch our March 2024 event where Senator de Lima keynoted, at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna:

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Don (not verified)

Altho' I freely admit that Duterte did his war on druggies, it is not to the extent you claim.  It was no where near 30,000--at most 8000.  Seems to be a moot point but accuracy is important.  If you keep inflating the number, it makes you just as much a liar as Duterte an international criminal.  

You must understand that corruption in Philippines is just a normal day to day activity.  In the Phils, corruption is out on top, business as usual, here in the USA, corruption is MUCH mor lucrative but is well hidden, or when it is not hidden, it is some kind of disaster that American taxpayers pay for, viz. 9-11, the 80's savings and loan scandal (all bush family crimes, BTW), and others.

However, all this aside, if you lived in the Phils, you would understand that the Philippine voters, that is, in the 90 percent wise, were for Duterte because they were simply sick and tired of the drug murders and related crime at that time.  I know.  I was there.  Almost everyone I talked to was voting for Duterte BECAUSE he said he would take care of that problem in the way he did.  Believe me, most everyone was relieved to have the corner drug dealer removed.  I know of one person who even the parents were glad the son was killed.  

It may not be right in a legal sense, but there are places on this planet where there is NO LAW except that law that the individuals make.  Those of you who are from "liberal" countries with lots of $$ to incarcerate individuals for long periods of time, view the rest of the world from behind your rose and emerald colored glasses.  If you haven't lived in the rest of the world, in the 3rd world, then you have no idea what you are complaining about.  Local conditions govern.

In the future you can guarantee that Americans will do the 'vigilante' dance sometime in the future when society breaks down and the citizen with guns will band together to protect themselves from the crime world.  I, lmyself, am a liberal but not one of YOU who are PSEUDO-liberal.  YHou must understand, liberal means protecting oneself, family, neighbors.

Wed, 06/26/2024 - 3:37pm Permalink

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