Groups welcome release of ex-senator, ‘drug war’ critic de Lima

Nov. 14, 2023
Photo from the Leila de Lima’s Facebook page

By Aleli Madrigal

With reports from Anne Marxze D. Umil

MANILA, Philippines — Progressive groups hailed the release of former Senator Leila de Lima who had been in prison for almost seven years.

On Nov. 13, Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 Presiding Judge Gener Gito granted bail to de Lima in her third and last illegal drug case. The bail was set at P300,000 ($5,351).

De Lima was allowed to post bail along with co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayu, former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and alleged bagman Jose Adrian Dera. The court said the prosecution failed to “discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong.”

In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said that the court’s decision showed that the charges against de Lima are baseless.

“Former President Rodrigo Duterte along with those who conspired to bring such patently false charges against de Lima should be held accountable,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

“We congratulate Sen. Leila de Lima et al on their release, after more than 7 years of unjust imprisonment. This positive court decision is proof not only of Senator de Lima’s innocence, but also of the tireless efforts of all freedom-loving Filipinos calling for their release,” said Gabriela’s Secretary General Clarice Palce.

Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, the support group of political prisoners, said that the wrongful detention of de Lima for nearly seven years “would not have happened had the Department of Justice upheld the rule of law from the beginning and rejected the filing of false cases against the fiercest critic of former President Duterte and his failed drug war.”

De Lima was charged with drug conspiracy under the Republic Act No. 165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. She was accused of enabling the drug trade inside the National Bilibid Prison’s maximum security compound during her post as secretary of the Department of Justice.

De Lima was acquitted in her two other cases last February 2021 and May 12 this year.

It was in 2017 when de Lima faced charges months after launching a Senate inquiry into former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody so-called “war on drugs,” where thousands of users and dealers were killed.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares meanwhile said de Lima is an inspiration.

“The struggle of de Lima should serve as an inspiration to victims of human rights violations – persevere in the struggle and stay the course, justice will come in the end,” said Colmenares.

Lim, meanwhile, reiterated her group’s call for the release of other political prisoners. Kapatid said there are 777 more political prisoners who also face baseless charges such as illegal possession of firearms and explosives which in fact, Lim said, were planted to deny them the right to bail.

“Kapatid calls on the Department of Justice to stop from allowing itself to be used as an instrument of political persecution by concocting cases to keep dissenters and activists in prolonged detention,” said Lim.

She added, “The prison doors should likewise open to release political prisoners who are victims as well of manufactured evidence and deliberate falsehoods by those who are sworn to uphold the law but are doing the opposite. They don’t belong in prison, but those who put them there do.” (reposted by

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