2023-11-13 16:09:33

Philippine court grants bail to fierce critic of b

Human rights campaigner and former senator Leila de Lima was granted bail on November 13, 2023 after more than six years under police custody.

A Philippine court hasgranted bail forLeila De Lima, one of the most vocal critics of ex-President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs”after being held in police custody for over six years.

“I have to rebuild my life.My life that they have tried to destroy,” De Lima told CNN inside the a regional trial court in the suburb of Muntinlupa City afterPresiding Judge Hon. Gener M.Gitomade the decision on Monday.

She was led out of the courtroom with a police escort while cheers of “Free Leila Now” were heard as she exited. The bail conditions were set at roughly $5,300 (300,000 Philippine pesos), and her legal team is expected to file the paperwork later on Monday evening.

De Lima had been acquitted of two out of the three charges laid against her,which all stemmed from allegations made by Duterte that she received payoffs from convicted drug gangs to fund her 2016 senatorial bid.

Organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have criticized De Lima’s detention, calling it “arbitrary” and demanding her immediate release.

Human rights activists have long criticized the detention of De Lima, pointing out that she has been held in a police cell since February 2017 despite not having been convicted of any charges.

They say her treatment is emblematic of a deteriorating rights situation in a country where political activists and the media often face threats, harassment and even death forattemptingto keep those in power in check.

Court proceedings against de Lima have been marked by undue delays, including thefailure of prosecution witnesses to appear in court and changes in judges handling her cases.

Supporters of Leila de Lima have long called for her release as crowds gathered in a recent a hearing in Muntinlupa, Philippines, June 5, 2023.

With her long-awaited temporary release, De Lima said she will be prioritizing spending quality time with her family,especially withher mother who is now 91 years old.

“She’swaiting for me. I have to be withher.She’sbeen waiting for me all these years,” De Lima said.

De Lima’s bail“must lead to dismissal of last bogus charge against her,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday.

“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,” said Butch Olano, section director of Amnesty International Philippines.

“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,” Olano added.