Former senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Leila de Lima, who led investigations into former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s criminal past and the thousands of killings in his so-called war on drugs, was released last November 13 after unjustly spending almost seven years in prison.
De Lima’s release was prompted by the retractions of several witnesses who admitted to have falsely testified against her of accepting drug money.
De Lima has since called for the investigation into former Justice chiefs Vitaliano Aguirre II and Menardo Guevarra after the Court of Appeals ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to act on her complaints against the two.
Human rights group Karapatan lauded the acquittal of De Lima noting how the former senator has been “detained and pilloried by the Duterte administration” but “remained firm and steadfast in speaking out against Duterte’s crimes,” said Cristina Palabay.
De Lima’s unjust detention was considered by many as a political vendetta of Duterte in response to fears of being made accountable for the killings undertaken by his death squad – the Davao Death Squad, and for the slaughter of more than 30,000 poor drug suspects (small time users and couriers) during Duterte’s tenure as president.
Palabay adds that De Lima’s release has once again called attention to the plight of more than 778 political prisoners who are also victims of political persecution and languishing in prison because of false and nonbailable charges. Human rights groups and activists have amplified the call for their immediate release.
Among the hundreds of political prisoners are poor farmers, workers, elderly, women, human rights defenders and revolutreleaionaries such as several National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad Jr., Rey Casambre, Adel Silva and Frank Fernandez to name a few.