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Leila De Lima, former CHR Chairperson, released on bail

Graphic: Leila De Lima

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Leila de Lima, former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), and a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial ‘war on drugs’, has been granted bail by a Philippine court after more than six years in police custody.

The court's decision follows De Lima's acquittal on two of the three charges against her. The allegations, originating from Duterte's claims that she received payoffs from convicted drug gangs to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign, have been at the centre of an ongoing legal battle. 

In 2009, while serving as CHR Chairperson, De Lima was vocal in her opposition to the war on drugs and initiated an investigation into the alleged activities of the Davao Death Squad, which included reported summary executions of drug suspects.

Later, while in the Senate, De Lima again opposed Duterte's anti-drug campaign policies and their human rights consequences, initiating another investigation into reported extrajudicial killings.

Human rights organisations, including the APF, have denounced De Lima's prolonged detention and called for her immediate release. 

Since she was arrested, the court proceedings against her have been marked by various delays including witnesses failing to appear in court and changes in judges overseeing her case.

In 2017, on International Human Rights Day, the APF attempted to visit De Lima in Camp Crame, Quezon City to show support and solidarity, however the visit was barred by the Philippine National Police.

De Lima's case, which reflects a broader deterioration of human rights in the Philippines, highlights the challenging environment faced by Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), political activists and journalists across the region. 

These individuals often face threats, harassment, and reprisals as they seek to hold those in power accountable for human rights abuses. 

Upon her long-awaited temporary release, De Lima said she intends to prioritise spending time with her family, particularly her 91-year-old mother. 

Date: 14 November 2023

Image credits

  1. Leila De Lima - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines