In this file photo, Sen. Leila de Lima arrives at Muntilupa Regional Trail Court to attend her hearing.
The STAR/Joven Cagande, File
Mistreatment of De Lima reflects 'broader attacks' vs rights defenders — groups
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - February 20, 2020 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima reflects the “broader repressive conditions” that human rights defenders—particularly women—face in the country, global watchdogs said Thursday.

De Lima, facing conspiracy to commit drug trading charges before Muntinlupa courts, has been detained inside the headquarters of the Philippine National Police since Feb. 24, 2017.

In a joint statement, Amnesty International, FORUM-ASIA, and Human Rights Watch called on the Philippine government to immediately release the senator and drop the “politically motivated” charges against her.

“Under the Duterte administration, women human rights defenders have repeatedly faced state-sanctioned intimidations and reprisals,” Mukunda Katter, FORUM-ASIA executive director, said.

In November 2019, the Commission on Human Rights said that women human rights defenders are “strong” agents of charge advancing the fight against inequality and discrimination. They, however, face repression, elevated gender-based attacks, sexual violence and harassment in the country.

“We have also observed the intensification of gender-based attacks, such as sexual harassment and the use of dehumanizing and misogynist language to silence women human rights defenders who continue to push for greater accountability,” Katter added.

The organizations cited the lawsuits filed against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, the “smear campaign” against Vice President Leni Robredo and the harassment against Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay and nuns of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.


De Lima is accused of allowing and benefiting from the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during his stint as Justice secretary—an allegation she has repeatedly denied.

“Every day that Senator de Lima remains detained is another day of injustice, not only against her but against all Filipinos whose rights—to life, liberty, health and due process—have been trampled on by a violent and repressive government,” Nicholas Bequelin, a regional director at Amnesty International, said.

The human rights groups urged the Human Rights Council to hold government officials accountable for its abuses against de Lima and other human rights activists in the Philippines when it holds a session in June.

“The Philippine government has grossly mistreated Senator de Lima so that other whistleblowers and rights monitors will not dare expose the abuses and injustices of Duterte’s ‘drug war,’” Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director, said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 29, 2020 - 2:09pm

Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday marked the first year of her detention at the Philippine National Police detention center in Quezon City.

Ahead of the anniversary of her arrest, the Senate minority and various rights groups called on the Philippine government to release her immediately.  

The Department of Justice initially charged De Lima for drug trading, but over the months, the state prosecutors filed motions to amend the charges and indict the senator on conspiracy to commit drug trading instead.

De Lima is known as one of the most outspoken critics of President Rodrigio Duterte's administration. 

February 29, 2020 - 2:09pm

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima seeks for the immediate approval of a bill granting early cash gifts for senior citizens who reach 80 and 90 years old.

“We hope that by expanding the coverage of this law, we are able to concretely honor our elderly for their meaningful contributions and their hard-fought sacrifices to their community and the Philippine society during their years of vigor,” De Lima says in a news release.

January 9, 2020 - 2:40pm

The US Senate has passed a resolution condemning the continued detention of Sen. Leila De Lima.

The same resolution also condemns "the Government of the Philippines for its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals as part of the 'War on Drugs' and the "arrest and detention of human rights defenders and political leaders who exercise their rights to freedom of expression."

Included in the language of the resolution is a provision calling "on the President of the United States to impose sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114–328; 22 U.S.C. 2656 note) with respect to

— (A) members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings

; and (B) officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima."

December 23, 2019 - 3:37pm

"My gratitude to the US Congress is overwhelming for including in the final and approved Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2020, now signed into law by the US President, the provision restricting the travel to the US of those responsible for and party to my persecution and imprisonment, or the Durbin/Leahy amendment," Sen. Leila De Lima says in a handwritten dispatch after news of the ban being included in the approved US budget for 2020.

"This latest development signals the fact that impunity cannot last and that one way or another, justice will catch up with those who choose to do injustice to others. This also signifies a solid recognition by the US government that I am a clear victim of political persecution," De Lima also says.

December 23, 2019 - 12:47pm

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says Sen. Leila de Lima's imprisonment "cannot be a wrongful detention" following news on the signing of the US spending bill which included a provision that bans the entry into America of officials involved in the detention of the senator.



December 23, 2019 - 12:37pm

US President Donald Trump signs into law the 2020 spending bill which has a provision that bans Philippine officials involved in the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima from entering America, media reports say.

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