HRW urges presidential candidates to pledge to drop cases vs De Lima

HRW urges presidential candidates to pledge to drop cases vs De Lima
Detained Sen. Leila M. de Lima attends the continuation of trial on the third drug case filed against her at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 on Feb. 16, 2021..
Released / Sen. Leila De Lima's office

MANILA, Philippines — The Human Rights Watch urged presidential candidates to pledge to drop charges against detained Sen. Leila De Lima, who will mark her year day in detention on Thursday.

Asia director at HRW Brad Adams said in a statement: “Senator de Lima’s long-term wrongful detention exemplifies the lawlessness and cruelty of the Duterte administration.”

“Candidates for president should commit to free De Lima immediately and to rebuild the Philippines’ tarnished criminal justice system to meet international standards,” Adams added.

De Lima went with arresting police officers at the Senate grounds in Pasay City on Feb. 24, 2017.

The staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte was charged with three drug trafficking charges, which were later amended to conspiracy to commit drug charges. She was accused of receiving money from the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary.

She claimed that the charges against her were politically motivated, an accusation that the government has denied.

But the rights watchdog noted that the trial proceedings against the senator moved slowly in courts, with five judges withdrawing from the cases and at least two witnesses died in the national penitentiary.

To date, De Lima has been acquitted in one charge and is still facing two other charges.

The senator is mounting a re-election bid as she remained detained at the police’s headquarters in Quezon City. She is part of the slate of Vice President Leni Robredo, the de facto opposition leader.

“Leila De Lima has been a stalwart advocate for human rights in the Philippines before and since her wrongful arrest five years ago. She should not have to wait for the election of the country’s next president to be released,” Adams also said.

The Palace has long rejected calls to release De Lima, saying these are intrusions into the country's domestic affairs. — Kristine Joy Patag

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