International community welcomes De Lima’s release from jail

Pia Lee-Brago – The Philippine Star

November 15, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has urged the Philippines to resolve the remaining “politically motivated” case against former senator Leila de Lima in a manner consistent with international human rights obligations and commitments.

The US Department of State said Washingon welcomed de Lima’s release on bail after nearly seven years in detention on drug charges. Her release followed her acquittal in two of three cases.

“The United States urges the Philippines to resolve the remaining case against her in a manner that is consistent with its international human rights obligations and commitments,” Matthew Miller, spokesman for the US State Department said in a statement.

French Ambassador Marie Fontanel said the release of De Lima is “excellent news.”

“We will continue following the case. But at least tonight, Nov. 13 2023, rhymes with hope,” Fontanel said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Australian Ambassador HK Yu PSM said she was pleased to see De Lima released from detention after many years.

“We look forward to the speedy resolution of her legal matters in accordance with Philippine law,” Yu posted on X.

Aside from welcoming the bail grant, the international community is expecting the conclusion of her case in “full conformity with the laws and international human rights obligations.”

European Union Ambassador Luc Véron said he was pleased by De Lima’s release, calling it a “signifiant step for rule of law in the Philippines.”

“A positive turn in the pursuit of justice! I hope that resolution of the remaining charges will be accelerated,” Véron said in a post on X.

In a post on social media, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson welcomed news about De Lima’s liberty.

“We continue to follow her case closely and look forward to seeing the remaining charges against her resolved in accordance with Philippine law,” Carlson wrote on X.

The Canadian embassy also welcomed the grant of bail for de Lima, which ended her over six years’ incarceration.

“We will continue to follow her situation closely, with the expectation of rapid resolution of proceedings in the case against her,” the embassy said in a statement. “Canada expects her case will be concluded in full conformity with the laws of the Philippines, and in line with the Philippines’ international human rights obligations.”

British Ambassador Laure Beaufls said De Lima’s release from jail is a “significant step for rule of law in the Philippines.”

International human rights organizations are among those who welcomed the decision of the Muntinlupa regional trial court, which granted De Lima’s petition for bail, which led to her release from jail on Monday.

Bryony Lau, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), described the court’s ruling as “welcome news,” saying De Lima should not have been “unjustly prosecuted and detained” by the previous Duterte administration.

She described De Lima’s incarceration as a punishment for speaking out against former president Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

“De Lima’s struggle has inspired a generation of human rights defenders in the Philippines and beyond. We wish her well,” Lau said.

Butch Olano, section director at Amnesty International Philippines, said the court ruling should be a step toward justice for the former senator.

“Leila has been detained for nearly seven long years, during which she was subjected to verbal and even physical attacks. We have repeatedly said that she should not have been imprisoned in the first place. Evidence, including various witnesses retracting their statements implicating her in the illegal drug trade, shows that the charges were fabricated,” Olano said.

“Leila has been targeted by the government for her criticism of the murderous ‘war on drugs’ and other human rights violations. She should have never spent even a single day in detention. This last remaining drug case against her must be dismissed expeditiously, and those behind her arbitrary detention and other violations of her human rights must be brought to justice,” he added.

Amnesty called on the Marcos administration to ensure De Lima’s safety, noting a previous hostage taking incident while the senator was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center.

“The government must now guarantee her safety, security and protection as she remains the target of vilification and threats,” Amnesty said.

The group said her arbitrary detention for the past six years “reflects the broader context of increasing impunity for human rights violations in the country.”

“These violations include killings, threats and harassment of political activists, human rights defenders, members of the media and other targeted groups,” it said.

Although it praised the release from jail of De Lima, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the delay showed that something is wrong with the country’s justice system.

CBCP president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David questioned why it took so long for the court to grant her bail for temporary liberty.

“This case has made it so obvious that something is very wrong about our justice system,” David said.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said De Lima’s liberty is both a legal victory and a blessing from the Lord.

Villegas said that despite attempts by some people to destroy her, De Lima remained patriotic and faithful to God.

Caritas Philippines president and Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said the bail grant for De Lima was a “victory of the rule of law.”

Bagaforo appealed to the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the detention of De Lima. — Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan


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