Manila, Nov 13 (EFE).- Former senator Leila de Lima, one of the most vocal critics of former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and his notorious “war on drugs”, was granted bail on Monday.
De Lima had been in pre-trial detention since 2017 on what she had called “bogus” drug charges that were politically motivated.
The former senator and justice minister was arrested shortly after launching an inquiry into Duterte’s bloody crackdown on the illegal drugs trade in the Philippines.
“Free at last,” de Lima said to reporters after her release.
“Though it took too long I never lost faith that my inevitable freedom would come,” she added.
“The milestones in my own life and my family’s life and in our nation’s history that I have missed while being unjustly detained cannot be counted,” de Lima said in her first statement since her release from a prison in Manila where she had spent the last six years.
The decision is part of a court case in which de Lima, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her, is accused of conspiring to support illegal drug trafficking in a Philippine prison.
Although the prosecution has already finished presenting its material on the case, judicial authorities have not yet said when the trial will be held.
De Lima, 64, who has already been cleared of two other charges linked to drug trafficking – in 2021 and earlier this year – was released at around 7pm local time after posting a bail of 300,000 pesos (about 5,350 US dollars).
In addition to de Lima, the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, in southern Metro Manila, also approved the provisional release of other defendants in the case, including former Corrections Bureau director Franklin Bucayu, former assistants Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and alleged collector Jose Adrian Dera, Rappler newspaper reported.
When considering “the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, the Court is of the firm view and holds that accused de Lima, Bucayu, Dayan, Sanchez and Dera should be allowed to post bail as the prosecution was not able to discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong,” Judge Gener Gito said, according to local media.
This is the third and last pending criminal case against the former senator, who was arrested in 2017 due to alleged drug trafficking-related crimes and has been imprisoned ever since, despite her acquittal in the two other trials and intense clamor from the international community for her release.
Prior to her arrest in 2017, De Lima had spent a decade investigating so-called “death squad” killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as mayor of the southern city of Davao, as well as in the early days of his presidency.
Duterte, who was president from 2016 until 2022, implemented a brutal nationwide anti-drug campaign – which is currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court in the Hague – that left more than 6,000 dead, according to the police, while NGOs put the death toll above 27,000, amid allegations of summary executions. EFE