Philippines Drops Charges Against Leila de Lima, Prominent Duterte Critic


Leila de Lima, a former senator in the Philippines who was detained for six years after she criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, was cleared on Monday of the last of the charges that the authorities had held her on.

Ms. de Lima was a sitting senator when she was detained in 2017 on charges of taking bribes from drug traffickers. She served as the public face of the opposition to a bloody campaign that left thousands of people dead.

Her detention sent a stark warning to those who dared to question Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, which had started soon after he took office in 2016.

Ms. de Lima consistently maintained that the charges were false and part of an effort to keep her quiet. The prosecution presented 26 witnesses against her, according to court documents. In November 2023, she was released on bail after five witnesses recanted their testimony in the case. By then she had already been acquitted of two of the three charges filed against her.

On Monday, a court in the city of Muntinlupa acquitted her of the last charge. In response to a motion that Ms. de Lima filed, which argued that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict her, the court ruled that the prosecution could not prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Cheering supporters greeted her as she left the court after the ruling. Many of them wore yellow, the color of the Liberal Party she had represented in the Senate, starting in 2016.

“Today I attained vindication,” Ms. de Lima said in an interview. “But full vindication and real justice will come only after those responsible for my persecution are made to answer for the wrongs they inflicted on me and my honor.”

Carlos Conde, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, lauded the dismissal of the last charge against Ms. de Lima and called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which has sought to investigate Mr. Duterte’s drug war.

“President Marcos should take this opportunity to demonstrate to the world that he is serious about upholding human rights in the wake of the catastrophic abuses under his predecessor and the continuing absence of accountability,” he said.



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