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Duterte's critic released on bail after languishing in jail for nearly seven years

Updated: Nov 15

Woman with hands on her face
A supporter greets Sen. Leila de Lima after a court approved her bail petition. Photo by Jinky Jorgio

By Jinky Jorgio

Manila-- Philippine Sen. Leila De Lima is finally free to go home after being in detention for six years, eight months and 21 days following a court's decision to grant her bail request.

Judge Gener M. Gito of Muntinlupa Regional Trail Court approved the bail petition on Monday. The bail was set at roughly $5,300 (300,000 Philippine pesos).

Gito accepted the case after two judges in the same court inhibited themselves from the case.

De Lima was ordered jailed by former President Rodrigo after accusing her of receiving bribes from drug dealers.

One of Duterte's most vocal critics, De Lima was arrested on Feb. 24, 2017 and placed in solitary confinement inside the police camp in Crame in Quezon City.

When asked what she would do next after paying the bail, De Lima said she would go home and spend time with her family including her 91-year-old mother.

"I have to rebuild my life. My life which for so long, they tried to destroy," De Lima said.

Supporters welcome Sen. Leila de Lima's release from jail. Photo by Jinky Jorgio

De Lima was led out of the courtroom with a police escort while supporters cheered “Free Leila Now” upon her exit.

Her legal team said it would try to speed up filling and paying the bail so the senator could go home.

When Duterte was elected president in 2016, he launched a brutal war against drugs. The campaign resulted in the killing of thousands of suspected drug users and pushers, drawing condemnation from human rights advocates.

Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, welcomed De Lima’s release on bail.

"Sen. De Lima’s release follows her acquittal in two out 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," Miller said in a press statement.

Duterte is now facing charges before the International Criminal Court after the families of those who were killed, the survivors and witnesses filed criminal charges against him. Also named respondent was Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, the police chief during the Duterte administration.


In 2009, De Lima launched an investigation into the Davao Death Squad, which was allegedly responsible for “routinely killing street children and others in broad daylight,” according to a report by Philip Alston, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

The investigation, led by De Lima, who at the time was the chair of the Commission on Human Rights, uncovered a mass grave of human remains near a quarry and hundreds of deaths allegedly linked to members of the Davao Death Squad – with at least two hitmen publicly accusing Duterte of ordering the killings.

After being elected in 2016, Duterte vowed to prioritize the drug problems in the country and go after drug pushers, addicts and drug coddlers.

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