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Former Senator Leila de Lima Fights Continuing Judicial Oppression

On June 5, 2023, under heavy guard, former Senator Leila de Lima attended a bail hearing at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 256.

Leila de Lima is a prominent Filipino lawyer and former senator known for her strong advocacy of human rights and social justice. She served as the Secretary of Department of Justice under the Aquino administration before becoming a senator. Throughout her career, De Lima has consistently spoken out against human rights abuses and corruption. Her insistence on investigations into the alleged death squads by then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his later war on drugs as President of the Philippines made her the singular target of presidential ire and retribution, hostility, and relentless attacks against critics, particularly women critics. The fabricated cases and the “whole-of-government” attack on Sen. De Lima - from the executive side, the 2 houses of Congress, and several levels of the Philippine Courts indicate a failure of the rule of law and government officials’ complicity in a gross miscarriage of justice. Sen. De Lima's unwavering courage and resilience in the face such gross persecution and human rights violations make her a rallying figure for the fight for justice, freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law and accountability.

Sen. de Lima has been fighting for her freedom since the first day of her incarceration and solitary confinement six years ago. By seeking bail, the hope is that Sen. de Lima can be released from police custody, even if only temporarily so she could actively participate in her defense and address the accusations made against her.

As avid supporters of Sen. de Lima since her stint as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, Likhaan joined a group of other supporters in front of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court. We waited under the sweltering heat of the noonday sun for over an hour, while listening to the prayers, songs, and short talks of allied groups. We all flocked to the van carrying Sen. de Lima when it came, hoping to get a glimpse of her and to show her people’s strong solidarity with her cause. Unfortunately, she was tightly guarded by a phalanx of menacing armed policeman.

Other allied groups showing their support to Sen. de Lima by holding placards with messages

Likhaan, other support groups, and media people are waiting for Sen. de Lima to come out in Trial Court

A thick cordon of heavily armed military guards surrounded Sen. de Lima as she made her way to her car

Sen. de Lima peeked and waved for a moment before departing

After an hour, the bail hearing came to an end, leaving us with only the promise of a decision "very, very soon”. Despite the never-ending uncertainty of her fight for freedom, Likhaan stands squarely with Sen. de Lima in her fight, and ours, for justice.

Post Script: On June 7th, Judge Romeo Buenaventura of Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 issued a decision denying Sen. de Lima's petition for bail. Despite the dismissal of similar cases and the growing international concern over the credibility of the charges against her, the denial of bail suggests a deliberate intent to keep her in detention and impede her ability to freely express her views.

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