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Following Kerwin's recantation, Amnesty International renews call for De Lima's release

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Following Kerwin's recantation, Amnesty International renews call for De Lima's release
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 — Amnesty International renewed its call to free detained Sen. Leila de Lima, whom they referred to as “prisoner of conscience,” after confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa retracted his allegations of giving money to the lawmaker.

Amnesty International Philippines Section Director Butch Olano said Espinosa’s retraction “is veritable proof” that De Lima “is a victim of political persecution, targeted and singled out by the Duterte administration for her legitimate work as a human rights defender and duly-elected legislator.”

“Following this retraction, the government must immediately and unconditionally release her and hold accountable those responsible for her unjust detention and the various human rights violations she has had to endure,” Olano added.

This was after Espinosa, in a separate criminal rap he is facing at the Department of Justice, recanted his allegations against the senator who is accused of benefiting from the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary.

Espinosa said: “[A]ny and all of his statements given during the Senate hearings, or in the form of sworn written affidavits against Senator Leila de Lima are not true. He has no dealings with Sen. De Lima and has not given her money.”

He added that he was coerced and threatened by the police in his extrajudicial confession during the Senate hearings in late 2016.

Olano said the contents of Espinosa’s counter-affidavit “is deeply disturbing.”

He continued that the Amnesty International has repeatedly said that De Lima’s case stemmed from her criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody
“war on drugs” — a claim that the Palace has repeatedly denied.

'No effect'

De Lima was originally charged with three drug cases, over her supposed hand in the proliferation of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary. She has been acquitted in one case and has two pending cases before the Muntinlupa courts.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, however, said that Espinosa’s recantation, which was contained in a counter-affidavit in a separate drug rap, will have no effect on their case against De Lima.

“He is not a witness for the prosecution. This has no effect since he is not our witness,” he said in Filipino.

But De Lima’s lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, said the recantation shows that testimony and evidence against the detained senator was fabricated.

 "We have always believed that no matter the lies perpetrated by coerced witnesses, in the end, the truth will still come out," he said.

De Lima, who has been detained for more than five years now, is seeking a re-election to the Senate.

LEILA DE LIMA

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