Human rights groups laud de Lima acquittal

Former Senator Leila De Lima shouts ‘answered prayers’ after being acquitted of her second drug case from her promulgation hearing as she is escorted out of the Muntinlupa City Hall of Justice on Friday, May 12. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN
Former Senator Leila De Lima shouts 'answered prayers' after being acquitted of her second drug case from her promulgation hearing as she is escorted out of the Muntinlupa City Hall of Justice on Friday, May 12. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

HUMAN rights organizations welcomed the acquittal of former Senator Leila De Lima from her second of three drug-related charges by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court branch 204 on Friday.

Amnesty International said in a statement on its website that the acquittal of De Lima, who is its prisoner of conscience, was “long overdue.”

“The partial acquittal of prisoner of conscience and human rights defender Leila de Lima was long overdue. While justice has been slow for her, it follows years of arbitrary detention and other human rights violations she has had to endure,” the human rights agency's interim Deputy Regional Director for Research Montse Ferrer said in a statement.

Ferrer said the organization is urging the government and authorities to quash the last drug case against the former senator.

“We urge the authorities to also quash the remaining drug case and to ensure that her application for temporary freedom in this pending case is processed speedily and fairly. The authorities must not delay her release any longer and allow her to be reunited with her family, friends and supporters after six long years,” she added. “Beyond Leila de Lima's long-overdue release, the Marcos administration must work towards holding accountable those responsible for her arbitrary detention, which clearly violated her rights to liberty, presumption of innocence and other fair trial guarantees.”

Lawyer Chel Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, was with De Lima in court. Diokno ran for senator alongside De Lima in last year's elections under the ticket of then vice president Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

“The wait and fight may be long, but we are happy that Leila de Lima will get the justice that she has been waiting for,” the former senatorial candidate wrote on Twitter in Filipino. “The charges filed against her have also been proven to be fabricated and only for revenge. A lot of lies can pile up, but in the end truth and justice will prevail.”

Human rights lawyer Tony La Viña, the president of Movement Against Disinformation, said the rule of law prevailed.

“As a collaborating defense counsel and as a professor of constitutional law, I am happy. But you have to ask the question though – why was she deprived of her freedom for six years?” he said on Twitter, with a photo of himself alongside De Lima.

Human rights nongovernment organization Karapatan also lauded De Lima's release.

“Karapatan lauds the acquittal of former Sen. Leila de Lima on one of the malicious charges against her. We call on the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 204 to grant her bail petition to enable her release,” Karapatan secretary general Christina Palabay wrote on Twitter. “For six years, Sen. Leila has been detained and pilloried by the [Rodrigo] Duterte administration, but she remained firm and steadfast in speaking out against Duterte's crimes.”

De Lima, who was detained in Camp Crame in 2017, was acquitted on Friday on the second of three drug-related cases filed against her.

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