HomeNewsDenial of Duterte’s top critic’s plea for bail draws flak

Denial of Duterte’s top critic’s plea for bail draws flak

Human rights activists and organizations on Wednesday criticized a Philippine court’s ruling denying the petition for bail of former Senator Leila de Lima. 

The local court said the grounds for the plea “are not compelling” and that “she is not suffering from any serious or life-threatening health condition”.

Carlos Conde, senior researcher at the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, said the court’s decision “prolongs her suffering and worsens her political persecution.”

“The international community, which has been assured by President [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr.] of human rights reforms, should not stand for this and should denounce this unjust and cruel ruling,” he said. 

The ruling stated that after a “careful review of the totality of prosecution’s evidence, the Court is convinced that the evidence of guilt… for the crime of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading is strong.”

The denial of De Lima’s plea for temporary freedom means she will remain behind bars as the trial for her remaining drug case continues.

Teddy Casiño of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said his organization “cannot fathom how the court considered the evidence” against the former senator “strong”. 

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“Considering these are trumped-up charges using fabricated witnesses and evidence. Like the two previously dismissed drug charges against her, this case is an act of vengeance by former President [Rodrigo] Duterte,” said Casiño. 

De Lima, 62, who has been in police custody since February 2017, faces charges alleging that she received money from drug lords while serving as justice secretary.

She has repeatedly denied the charges, contending the Duterte administration is retaliating against her for investigating extrajudicial killings under the president’s anti-drug campaign.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said described the court order as “yet another form of injustice against” the staunch Duterte critic, who has been in prison for six years “for trumped-up drug charges.”

She said in the two other cases that De Lima was acquitted, “prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimonies, citing coercion by government authorities.”

“We have no doubt that in this last existing case against de Lima, the Bilibid inmates who accused her of running the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons are similarly compromised,” said Palabay.

The ex-lawmaker’s defense team, in a statement, said that their camp will file a Motion for Reconsideration

‘We hope that in our MR, the Court will see our position that the testimony of convicted criminals will never be acceptable or can be trusted, especially if they have a grudge against the accused,” said Atty. Boni Tacardon.

Palabay reiterated her organization’s call for the “immediate release” of De Lima, who she said is “one of the human rights defenders and leaders of the political opposition persecuted by the Duterte regime.” 

“Every day of her continuing detention, just like that of the more than 700 political prisoners at present, is a day of injustice against her,” Palabay added.

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